I have a confession to make.
While I am a fan of live music and theatre, I’ve never been the type to go see comedy. I’m not particularly sure why either. Perhaps I am a very serious person and I really don’t enjoy scripted jokes, nor when people use their shows to target the audience for their content. So, I was very surprised when I was given the opportunity to review Soothplayers’ Completely Improvised Potter. Surprised and admittedly, a little bit scared. Mostly due to the ‘comedy’ part as I don’t really frequent the comedy festival. But ‘Harry Potter’, that is a topic that I know well. My curiosity won when I decided to accept the experience and challenge. And honestly, I’m really glad that I did.
The Soothplayers’ Completely Improvised Potter experience begins when you are lining up waiting to take a seat in the theatre. You are each handed a form and a pen to write a possible title that could have been a Harry Potter book. While thinking of a title, the ticket holders are then slowly let into the theatre and are welcomed by the cast who are all dressed in their Hogwarts uniform and house colours. A cast member then gathers all the audience suggestions into a gold giant goblet. Once the show commences, the cast bring out the goblet, draw one audience suggestion, and the rest is magical history with the cast conjuring the content of the show equipped with only their talent, wit and Harry Potter knowledge.
Admittedly, I was very impressed with how well the troupe worked together. Not only did the cast have great chemistry and natural comic timing, but they were quick on their feet, make excellent use of the Harry Potter film music, and all the scenes were seamless. Despite everything being completely improvised, the story flowed well with the cast managing to skilfully conclude within the hour-long timeframe.
The cast aren’t just actors, they’re Potterheads too, even mentioning minor characters from the books that the average Harry Potter fan wouldn’t remember. The characters that the cast take on aren’t limited to their house colour nor gender either. With a complete cast of 12, there are actually 7 that take the stage every night and rotate performance dates. With the book title suggestion differing per audience and rotating cast members, Completely Improvised Potter artfully manage to tell a new story every night.
The story I that I witnessed unravel before my eyes was “Harry Potter and the Magic Carpet Ride” where Harry goes to a magical rug store, buys a magic carpet with Cedric Diggory’s face on it, goes on a date with Cho Chang and chaos ensues. If I had the time, I would go every night because every story is different. In truth, I am jealous of every performance that I can’t attend because of the crazy-amazing story I am missing out on. Completely Improvised Potter is basically a ‘live fan fiction’ which is magical, fun and hilarious for both the audience and cast.
I had never heard of these shows before and I’m so grateful for the experience. They make it look easy when we know it’s not. Improvised acting is an art and the Soothplayers team are clearly wizards. When J.K. Rowling said, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home”, I never realised how many different ways I could return to Hogwarts until I apparated to Hogwarts via the magic of Soothplayers’ Completely Improvised Potter.
Completely Improvised Potter is currently playing in Melbourne at Trades Hall in Carlton as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I strongly recommend buying tickets as soon as possible as shows are selling out fast. I loved the experience so much, I’ve already bought a ticket to go again.
For more information on the show and ticketing, visit improvisedpotter.com.au
Photography by Mark Gambino.