Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“An entirely improvised Harry Potter comedy play, based on a suggestion of a fan fiction title.”
Spontaneous Potter does exactly what it says on the tin; you’ll get an hour of improvised comedy, an entirely improvised Harry Potter play-let based on a title pulled out of a hat, from titles provided by audience members as they queue to get into the venue and wait for the show to start. That input is the trigger for a different show each day.
A team talented male performers deliver the proceedings, drawing on their skills as improvisers demonstrating an ability to work together in ways that drive both the comedy and the narrative. If you are a Harry Potter fan, this is the goods; if you’ve never seen nor heard of the boy who lived, you might feel a bit left out. So, back to that tin. The title that is picked out is invariably a worthy one, with enough to suggest where the tale is going to go. Where the real skill, and the spectacle lie are in the group’s ability to present a satisfying story with enough in it to feel you are immersed back in your favourite world of muggles and wizards, whilst also leaving you regularly hooting (excuse the owlish overlap) with laughter at what is clearly meant to be adult parody (there is a version for kids too).
On occasions the performers stumble and speak over each other, and now and then there are a few silences where a performer is a bit flummoxed. That was the case when I saw them perform last year and that can be eradicated with more training and time in the rehearsal room. Rehearsal, I hear you exclaim. Yes, top drawer improvisation requires a lot of practice and mastery of the processes of improvisation. You end up with something as good as something that could have been scripted. That doesn’t have to be the only aim of improvisation and the fourth wall is often down in this show. He occasionally rough and readiness is something the performers’ have given themselves permission to engage in. But there is a story to be delivered and tightness between an improvisation group is a key aspect of the quality and spectacle of it.
That doesn’t stop this being a very funny hour with clever observations of the foibles of the characters from the books/films as well as the relationships between them and favourite memories we all have of the stories. Some impersonations are better than others; yet the hour flies by and the audience are more than pleased.
You’ll appreciate the performers’ ability to drive the tale forward, tie the loose ends together, deal with curve balls they throw at each other with ease, and pull terrific one-liners and witty banter out of seemingly nowhere. There lies the magic of Spontaneous Potter and why the hall was filled to bursting. This has become a favourite of the fringe and the only danger is that it becomes too much of a product, a fringe commodity; it felt a bit like that during the start and at the end – those routines felt far too rehearsed.
Overall, the Spontaneous Players are back with a winner again at the Fringe for Potter fans who will be leaving the venue after an hour with smiles on their faces, and their view of the magical world they love changed a bit by parody, yet also basking in the warmth of a bit more time spent in Hogwarts.