Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Review: Completely Improvised Potter

8 May 2019

I saw the crowd before I heard it, which I am aware is completely counterintuitive. My concern that we had not arrived early enough to figure out which room the show was in immediately passed as everyone who came in with my friends and I all flocked to the queue just inside the entrance of Trades Hall. I could feel everyone’s excitement as we entered the dimly lit room and took our seats. The room filled up quickly, and for a moment it seemed like there weren’t enough seats for everyone. The tapestry with the Hogwarts crest hanging on stage reminded me of another Harry Potter-inspired play called Puffs that I saw in Melbourne last year (of which I also wrote a review!).

Once we settled in, the actors handed out slips of paper that said “Harry Potter and the _______” and told us to complete the title – if we were lucky, they said, they might act out our idea tonight! The only catch was that they had to be PG and don’t contain references to pop culture for copyright reasons. The Potter-esque music wound down and the lights dimmed: it was time for the show. The actors gathered on the tiny stage and the one in charge of choosing the title stepped up with the hat containing our slips of paper. As he reached in to grab one, another fell to the floor, and he picked that one up. “Guess this is the one we’re doing tonight,” he said, “Harry Potter and the… Inverted House!” Whispers erupted throughout the room, and a moment later I’m told excitedly that one of my friends wrote that title. The actors’ faces scrunched up with determination and concentration as their minds raced to think about how the plot will go.

The narrator stood center stage while the rest stood on the sidelines. He set up the first scene involving Mrs Weasley, Hermione, and creatures called kerfuffles. There was a bit of waffling and meandering in the beginning as the actors tried to find a solid plot they could follow involving an inverted house, but the comedy never wavered even when the story did. They played off each other effortlessly at times, delivering a sarcasm and wit that reflected a self-awareness the Potter characters never had in the canon. Jessica Greenall and Caitlin Yolland’s performances as Wormtail and Voldemort stood out as their chemistry allowed them to create a hilariously casual version of the master-servant relationship between the two characters. Yolland’s and Patrick Rehil’s imitations of Voldemort and Dumbledore were also comedic gold.

Once the story started unfolding, we became immersed in the performance, greedily lapping up this seemingly new Harry Potter story that was reminiscent of the types of adventures Harry and his friends got up to in the books and movies. It was not just a celebration of the Potter series, it was also a homage to the original stories and an attempt to keep the magic alive. An hour later, we walked outside, buzzing with a different kind of excitement as we marveled at how the story turned out and at the fact that it was literally completely improvised (I know it’s in the name of the show, but it doesn’t really hit you until you see it in person). Shows like Completely Improvised Potter and Puffs are truly what keeps the fandom thriving, offering us new content that we’ve been wanting at a level of quality that is honestly impressive for relatively small productions. For those of you Potter fans who have still been considering seeing Completely Improvised Potter at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, this is the sign you’ve been waiting for.

Completely Improvised Potter ran until April 21 at Trades Hall.

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