Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Potted Potter
Touring Production
Review by Patrick Thomas

Scott Hoatson and Joseph Maudsley
Photo by Dahlia Katz
Fans of Harry Potter have a plethora of options to satisfy their fascination with not only the boy wizard, but other characters and stories that composing J.K. Rowling's "wizarding world." First, there are the seven books of the original series, beginning with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and ending with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Combined, the books total 1,084,170 words over 6,095 pages. Then there are the eight movies made from these books, plus the three movies based on Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." Potterheads can also visit the Universal Studios theme parks to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. In addition, there is an array of related books that span pages on "The Harry Potter Wizarding Almanac," "Harry Potter: Official Christmas Cookbook," "The Unofficial Harry Potter Spellbook," even "Harry Potter Origami Volumes 1 and 2," and many, many more. And, as reviewed here on, there is a stage play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

And I haven't even mentioned Potted Potter, a spoof of the HP universe that opened this week at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, one stop on a North American tour. The show began in 2005 as a skit created by BBC TV hosts Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner to entertain Potter fans waiting on line for the release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," and was turned into a full-length (well, 70 minutes) show the next year. The show first traveled to Toronto in 2012 and played in San Francisco in 2015.

True to its roots, Potted Potter has a rough, homespun, improvised quality to it. Unlike the many millions of dollars spent on stagecraft for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (brooms that seem to fly without cables, wands that shoot fire, flying death eaters), the staging budget for Potted Potter might not even reach five figures, with stuffed animals standing in for snakes and dragons, and a pair of stuffed warthogs representing Hogwarts (by the way, if you haven't read the books or seen the movies, this show is simply not for you, being filled with insider references). The vaunted "Hogwarts Express" train looks like something pilfered from a toddlers' playground.

Although the ads claim to present all seven books in "70 hilarious minutes," the two performers (Scott Hoatson and Joseph Maudsley on opening night, alternating with Paul Brown and Liam Jeavons) really only scratch the surface of the saga. The point here is more silliness and slapstick than attempting to truly recreate the story. There are some fun moments–the Quidditch match with volunteers from the audience (one of whom brutally attacked the golden snitch, played by Hoatson in a garish gold lame costume, with an inflatable club) and the general giddiness of the performers, but overall the show lacks the sort of wit it would take to make Potted Potter appeal to a more mature crowd. The children in the audience (the theater was only half-full, but about half of those appeared to be pre-teens) seemed to love it.

If you are a Potter completist–which, given the amount of Potter material out there is a real challenge–then you'll probably want to give Potted Potter a try. For the rest of us, the show is nothing more than a light, unoffensive diversion with a few giggles and a handful of clever sight gags.

Potted Potter runs through January 7, 2024, at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco CA. For tickets and information, please visit For information on the tour, visit