ED2014 Children's Shows ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Week0 Edition

Dan Clarkson: Another Potted Fringe show is elementary

By | Published on Tuesday 22 July 2014


Beginning as a piece of street theatre in 2005, ‘Potted Potter’, condensing all seven of the Harry Potter books into just seventy minutes, arrived as a full show at the Fringe in 2006, and soon became a hit show for kids, adults and Potter fans everywhere. Created and performed by Dan Clarkson and Jeff Turner, the Edinburgh run was quickly followed by a UK tour, with the show later going global, with a second cast required as Dan and Jeff fitted the performances around their work for CBBC.
Returning to the Edinburgh Festival in the following years, ‘Potted Potter’ soon became something of a Fringe institution, ensuring an eager audience awaiting as spin-off shows ‘Potted Pirates’ and ‘Potted Panto’ arrived. And, we’re sure, for the latest new show too, ‘Potted Sherlock’, which will condense all 60 of the famous detective stories into one new Fringe show. Ahead of that we spoke to Clarkson about the Potted shows, condensing Sherlock, and putting on hats.

CC: After Potter and Panto, why the condensed Sherlock show now?
DC: We are all huge fans of Sherlock Holmes and found that the stories and characters really gave themselves to comedy. Plus these productions usually boil down to what I want to dress up as. First wizards. Then princesses. Now, as I’m older and wiser, the next logical step was a Victorian detective!

CC: There’s quite a lot more Sherlock stories than there were Harry Potter books. Did you have to read them all? Were you Sherlock buffs before the project?
DC: My brother and I were big Sherlock fans before and half the fun was being able to re-read all the books, watch all the films and relive all the stories. But yes 60 stories is a little bit more than seven books. But we decided it was time to up the stakes and really challenge ourselves. Ask me again in three weeks if that was a good idea or not!

CC: Where did the idea for ‘Potted Potter’ originally come from? Were you influenced by the Reduced Shakespeare Company shows?
DC: ‘Potted Potter’s first incarnation was as a 20 minute sketch to entertain the people in the queues at Borders bookstore who were waiting at midnight for the release of the sixth Potter book. It went down better than either myself or Jeff could have ever imagined, and so we decided to expand the show and bring it up to Edinburgh. Absolutely the Reduced Shakespeare shows were one of our many influences. I remember seeing ‘Shakespeare Abridged’ when I was fifteen back in the mid 90s and it being one of my favourite pieces of theatre. At the time it was truly ground breaking and I remember thinking “Wow, you can do shows like this for a living”.

CC: Did you originally anticipate their being a series of Potted shows, or was the Potter production intended as a one off?
DC: It was never our intention to have a series of shows. To be honest, I don’t think we ever thought Potter would ever go further than that original Edinburgh run back in 2006! Even now we are waiting for people to realise that we are just two friends messing around and for them to tell us to stop being so silly!

CC: Presumably with the Harry Potter show you could you assume your young audience knew the basic stories already. Can you make the same assumptions about the Sherlock Holmes stories?
DC: I think with Sherlock, the familiarity comes from the characters themselves as opposed to the stories. You put a deer stalker on anyone’s head and see how long it takes them to say ‘Elementary’! But people being less familiar with the stories really gave us the freedom to have fun in the way we told them. Our hound from ‘The Hound Of The Baskervilles’ is worth the ticket price alone!

CC: I guess half your young audience might assume Sherlock is set in modern times and he looks rather like Benedict Cumberbatch. Presumably your show is set in Victorian times?
DC: We’d be idiots not to acknowledge the genius that is the BBC ‘Sherlock’ series, and the legendary Mr Cumberbatch. But yes, our show is very much set in Victorian times. It’s one of the greatest times in British history and lends itself so well to parody. Plus I look amazing in a top hat. Again it’s really all about the opportunity for me to play dress up!

CC: Presumably a few things in the Sherlock stories aren’t appropriate for a kids show?
DC: This is definitely the most mature show we have ever done, that was heavily influenced by the source material, and we will always stand by the fact that rather than being a ‘kid’s show’ we are a ‘family show’ and try to present comedy that can be enjoyed by every age group. However yes, some of Sherlock Holmes’ recreational activities had to be politely removed!

CC: ‘Potted Potter’ became something of an Edinburgh Fringe institution. Do you enjoy performing your shows at the Festival?
DC: Wow, really? I’m showing my mum that – she will be so proud! Enjoy doesn’t begin to cover how we all feel about performing at the Festival. It’s like Disneyland for actors and is such a unique and exciting experience that nowhere else in the world really comes close. We are so happy to be back.

CC: Are there any other oeuvres you’d quite like to make into a Potted show?
DC: Being the closet geek that I am, I would love one day to play a certain Time Lord, and seeing as the BBC have yet to knock on my door I think I might have to take matters in to my own hands and start Potting!

CC: And finally, what’s the best Sherlock story? And why?
DC: There are so many to choose from, and my favourites change daily. But currently I love ‘The Adventure Of The Sussex Vampire’, an amazing tale where a gentleman comes to Holmes worried that his wife is in fact a vampire and secretly feeding on their infant son. Trust me, ‘Twilight’ has nothing on this tale!

‘Potted Sherlock’ was performed at the Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

LINKS:  www.festivalhighlights.com