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Improv collective Spontaneous Players look to make magic as they bring regular Edinburgh improvisational comedy show based on Harry Potter universe to Elgin Town Hall

By Kyle Walker

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THERE is always the feeling of a little magic happening at a good improvisational comedy show, as every freewheeling part somehow clicks anarchically into place.

For Edinburgh-based collective Spontaneous Players, they’ve gone and taken that magic to its obvious conclusion – with a fully improvised show set inside the Harry Potter universe.

And Spontaneous Potter – making its debut at Elgin Town Hall on Friday – offers plenty of opportunity for no holds barred improv comedy, set as it is in a world of witches and wizards and fantastical creatures.

“Yeah, that’s the absolute joy of it,” the troupe’s Will Naameh said. “With [our other show] Spontaneous Sherlock, we find ourselves always having to tie the ridiculousness back to ‘This was 1895, what is the rational explanation?’

“Whereas the last Harry Potter show that we did in Cardiff, was ‘and Draco’s Secret Stash of Fanfiction’. And it was all about the things he wrote, his fanfiction coming alive – he was writing fanfiction about how he wanted to have friends – and he suddenly had friends.

“And the explanation for that is simply – magic! And then you can carry on improvising. So yeah, hugely liberating.”

There’s a deep love of the Potter lore that runs through the show – the Spontaneous Players all grew up as “huge fans” of the series.

“We thought, ‘Well, it’s something we like, it’s something people like, and it’s something that nobody’s done in this country,’” Will explained. “Which surprised us, really!

“We thought, ‘we might as well get in there first with something we enjoy doing!’ And in Edinburgh, the city of Harry Potter too.”

“Improv is such a hard sell because it’s still very new in this country and it traditionally has quite a negative stereotype!"

That unapologetic fandom certainly helps when every performance of this show revolves around crafting new stories in that universe – completely off the cuff.

“Surprisingly there is zero structure,” Will said. “So all we do is we get the title from the audience – everyone gets a title when they go in, ‘Harry Potter and the blank’ on a piece of paper.

“They fill it out, we pick one out at random from the Sorting Hat, and then over the course of an hour, hour-and-a-half, however long the course of a show is, we just improvise it off the top of our heads. No structure, no preparation, no set-pieces, nothing.

“All we know is that there will probably be Harry, Ron, Hermione, and we’ll probably see people like Snape, McGonagall and Voldemort, because these are the characters that inhabit the world.”

It’s certainly resonated with audiences. On top of their regular weekly show in Monkey Barrel Comedy in Edinburgh – where they rotate between their Potter and Sherlock shows – they have performed 40 shows across the UK. “It’s been going great!

“Improv is such a hard sell because it’s still very new in this country and it traditionally has quite a negative stereotype!

But using the Harry Potter device as a hook can help get people through the door, and lets them appreciate improv for what it is, which is a good artform and a good form of comedy. It’s a lovely surprise to see people seeing improv for the first time.”

And those audiences get to see a performance that no other audience will get to see. “Improv’s that boundary between fear and fun, and it’s all about turning those negative feelings inside yourself into opportunity and pushing yourself forward to find that fun.

“So yeah, that adrenaline is definitely where the magic happens.”

Spontaneous Potter comes to Elgin Town Hall on Friday night. The show begins at 7.30pm and tickets cost £12. Go to www.thespontaneousplayers.com

Will Naameh during a performance of Spontaneous Potter.
Will Naameh during a performance of Spontaneous Potter.

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