Potting Potter: Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner Cast a Spell Off-Broadway

By Michael Gioia
04 Jul 2012

Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson
Jefferson Turner and Daniel Clarkson
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, a couple of British Muggles — if you will — have whittled away at J.K. Rowling's famed "Harry Potter" series to tell the story of "The Boy Who Lived" in a mere 70 minutes. Their fast-paced "Unauthorized Harry Experience," Potted Potter, has "apparated" from the West End and landed at Off-Broadway's Little Shubert.

Potted Potter, a one-act parody — now in an extended Off-Broadway engagement — began as a five-minute street show in 2005. Clarkson, a die-hard "Harry Potter" fan, was commissioned to condense the first five novels and perform for "Potter" fans at the midnight release of the sixth book, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," in London. In hopes of obtaining the new book "before everybody else," he took the job.

"I needed someone to play Harry Potter, so I could be all the other characters," Clarkson explained. In walked Turner. "I saw Jeff [busking in Covent Garden] and thought, 'Well, if you squint and look the other way, he kind of looks like Daniel Radcliffe a bit.'" Turner, an eager storyteller who knew nothing of "Potter" — at the time — took on the challenge.

"I hadn't read any of the 'Harry Potter' books," admitted Turner, "so I read five in a week, so that we'd write this thing." The thing he so candidly referred to became the Olivier Award-nominated Potter production that pokes fun — in a "loving way," the duo made clear — at the bestselling series of novels, which tells the story of Harry Potter, a teen coming of age in the world of wizards, and "He Who Must Not Be Named," his archenemy formally known as Voldemort.

"I think the original version [of Potted Potter] was Harry Potter in Seven Days," laughed Clarkson. "We had enough material that we could just run and run and run and run. [Now] we're doing much of the Harry/Voldemort relationship, which means most subplots get kicked to the curb." With precious material at their fingertips — considering the fan base for the "Harry" series — Clarkson and Turner worked carefully to "pot" all seven novels into a comprehensive and entertaining 70 minutes.

"When we wrote it, we actually had a white board and a marker," said Turner, who tells the stories alongside Clarkson in a comedy-of-errors format. "We wrote each book down and said [that] no two could be the same." Potted Potter pits Turner as the "Potter" enthusiast with Clarkson as his uneducated sidekick. The two tell the books through song, a Power Point presentation and a game of Quidditch — the high-flying wizard sport — among others.