About the author:
After graduating from the University of Leeds' Bretton Hall with “a spring in his step and a smile on his face,” Daniel Clarkson met his creative soulmate, University of Plymouth alum Jefferson Turner, in 2005. The duo quickly got to work creating and performing a Harry Potter mashup that they dubbed Potted Potter and later debuted a second stage show, Potted Pirates, as popular hosts on Children’s BBC. A tour of the Potter comic parody followed, eventually landing the duo at off-Broadway's Little Shubert Theatre, where Potted Potter opened on June 3. Broadway.com asked the London-based two-time Olivier Award-nominated actor and playwright to look back on the magical journey that whisked him and his best mate across the pond to 42nd Street.
Potted Potter has just opened off-Broadway at the Little Shubert Theatre. Even as I write this sentence it still seems unbelievable. As I think that our little show's opened in New York City, I can’t help but think back on the incredible journey that has brought us here.
It was only six years ago when a friend invited me out for a coffee, and asked if I knew of the Harry Potter books. “Yeah, I’ve heard of them,” I casually replied. This was a minor understatement: I was a huge fan! A year earlier I’d waited until midnight to buy the fifth installment, arguing in the queue with an overweight house elf about the loyalties of Severus Snape.
My friend explained that she was trying to come up with a great publicity stunt to coincide with the launch of the sixth Potter book. My first thought was, ‘Play this right and I could get my hands on the sixth book before anyone else!’ And then the words came out: ‘We could do a comic recap of the series so far, all five books in five minutes.’ And with that, Potted Potter was born.
I brought Jeff on board straightaway to play Harry Potter. I still stand to this day by my early hunch that if you squint, close one eye and look the other way he’s the spitting image of Daniel Radcliffe. And I took on the task of playing every other character, still the best workout I’ve ever found.
We presented what was then no more than a quick sketch on a small stage in a London bookstore at midnight, and we were overwhelmed. We couldn’t believe it, the yelling and cheering, the first hand experience of true Pottermania. It was decided that this was far more than a one-off job: we were on to something truly special here!
We quickly developed the skit into a full-length show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where reached the dizzy heights of playing to 75 people in a converted church hall. Again, the show got a great reaction, not least from our now longtime producer, James Seabright. Fortunately for us he saw something in these two young actors and decided to take a chance on us. The budget was suddenly increased, a director was hired, and we began to tour the UK. Even back then I remember thinking how unbelievable it had all become: Here we were, two friends, doing what we loved and suddenly able to make a living out of it.
Scroll forward five years, when Potted Potter came in to London’s West End and we got nominated for an Olivier Award (our answer to the Tonys). Then I thought well this is it, we’d done it all. The dream every actor has when starting out, we’d brought our own show into the West End, we were award nominees, and our show’s poster was all over the subway. It was essentially time to retire! How could things possible get better?
But soon after, the idea was put to us of a North American tour. I quickly answered, “Yes!” And almost not catching the follow-up statement that “and there might be a run in New York as part of it.”
Of course time went by and I thought I must have just imagined it, we couldn’t possibly be going to New York, maybe I’d misheard, maybe they meant York in England, a lovely little city with its very own minster. Yes that must have been it. Turns out I hadn’t misheard!
So here we are, and I couldn’t be prouder. It just doesn’t come better than this. For the last few weeks I’ve been filled with nothing but excitement and fear. But do you know what? I liked the fear; the butterflies that had taken residence in my stomach were actually welcome. Because with the fear came the adrenaline, the energy and the thrill that no white-knuckle ride on this earth can compete with. As soon as the music of our finale ended on that unforgettable opening night and the sound of applause started, I was filled with a sense of pride like never before. Our little show, which started life on a small stage in a bookstore, is now all grown up!