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What's On, Culture, Theatre, Comedy

The Show That Must Not Be Named

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Harry Househam

Oxford is an incredibly literary city; from Inspector Morse to Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, from Alice in Wonderland to Narnia, Middle Earth and many more imaginary worlds. But in recent years the city has also become increasingly cinematic, playing host to many film sets such as Transformers, The Mummy, and other Hollywood blockbusters making use of the stunning architecture and dreaming spires. But among these literary and cinema giants none have had such an effect to the local tourism quite as much as Harry Potter it would seem. From escape rooms at the Kassam entertainment park to walking tours and wand shops popping up all around the centre of Oxford. No other franchise seems to have taken such a stronghold in Oxford, for what is essentially only a couple of scenes filmed in a few of Oxford's colleges.

It seemed only right then that Oxford had its own witchcraft and wizardry show, created by local comedy club, Jericho Comedy. The Show That Must Not Be Named is Oxford's one and only witchcraft and wizardry-themed show. It must remain unnamed for copyright reasons, to avoid being sued by J K Rowling, but also because every show has a different title. It's a wizarding world-themed improvised comedy show meaning that you, the audience, suggest the title and watch as the improvisers turn those suggestions immediately into jokes, characters and plots all from the magical world, inspired by and parodying Harry Potter.

Audience members are given quills and Hogwarts letters to write down suggestions for fake titles of new Harry Potter books. Suggestions are placed in the goblet of fire before being used to conjure up new stories and characters. Past shows have included Dementors unionising and going on strike at Azkaban Prison, heists at Gringotts bank, dragons burning down Hogwarts, centaurs running a magical cocktail bar and Hogwarts being corrupted by privatisation, along with silly family-friendly creatures from giant house elves, to tree-dwelling goblins. Unlike other comedy shows in Oxford, this one is completely family friendly. Audiences young, adult and older can enjoy the show alongside each other. We've had school children, pensioners, and couples all laughing along at the world they fell in love with reading the best-selling books.

The show has been played in the New College cloisters, the very same location where the character Draco Malfoy is transfigured into a ferret by Professor Mad Eye Moody, as well as being performed in the great hall of Christchurch College, the same great hall that was used to design parts of Hogwarts school for witchcraft and wizardry. Aside from the site-specific performances, the show has another authentic Hogwarts connection as the show’s pianist Tom Hodge has actually been in one of the Harry Potter films, he starred as a Ravenclaw tuba player in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The scene he is featured in (spoilers incoming) is the moment where after the return of Voldemort, Harry Potter returns to his school with the dead body of Cedric Diggory, whilst the brass band play a lovely festive upbeat number (it’s actually quite funny thanks to the contrast in tone).

Whether or not you’re a diehard fan of the books or you know a keen bean that is, or even if you’ve never read the books, the show promises to be a lot of fun for all. As they’re based on audience suggestions each show is different and never the same, the shows also focus on the small characters in the world. Instead of always seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione, you’re more likely to see what the B characters got up to behind the scenes. What does Hagrid do on his day off? What do Dementors do in their tea break? How many goblins does it take to feed a dragon? Where do centaurs sleep? These are the sorts of silly magical questions shows have explored. If you fancy an evening of magical silliness, and you love Harry Potter, then this is the show for you.

You can catch The Show That Must Not Be Named at the Old Fire Station on 26 July or at Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street on 5 September, 3 November or 10 January.

www.improvpotter.com

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