After several spell-binding North American tours, London’s West End hit Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff is flying back to Toronto! Seen by over a million muggles around the world the show is set to cast a spell over the Bluma Appel Theatre December 21 – January 14, 2024.

Potted Potter has fans flying off their seats (or broomsticks) with laughter and for the first time in North America the Toronto production will feature an all-female cast. Lottie Bell and Josephine Starte will lead the run with Hanna Berrigan swooping in as Associate Director. The cleverly curated show features perfect Potter props complete with wand and sorting hat,  appearances from your favourite characters, and a live Quidditch match!

Josephine is an award-winning actress, writer and improviser, who trained at Cambridge and Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art. A BAFTA Connect member, Josephine won Best Actress at the NoBudge Independent Film Awards, and her scripts have been shortlisted for Screen Australia’s ROAR Award, and longlisted for the Bruntwood Prize and the BAFTA Rocliffe Prize. As a writer-performer, Josephine is a regular collaborator with RSC Creative Fellow Lily McLeish including the acclaimed Killing It at Vault Festival.

Josephine is a long-time associate to Kristine Landon Smith, and is a regular in indie art films. Josephine has worked with the Potted Potter creative team before, most recently as Platypus in The Pirate, The Princess and the Platypus. Her theatre credits include work for Southwark Playhouse, Bristol Old Vic, Camden People’s Theatre and Polka Theatre. 

We had a chance to chat with Joesphine Starte to learn more…

7 books in 70 minutes! That is a lot of material to cover in such a short amount of time. The script must be pretty intense, so we want to know how do you psych yourselves up for this whirlwind stage production?

Josephine: It’s a crazy amount of material! Completely deranged! But we’ve done it before, so it’s not technically impossible, just insane. Once we’re in performance we do some speed runs with all the wigs and bits and run around backstage before, scream a bit, run the songs a few times, run the bows (always mess these up), then lots of coffee etc. I guess we try to make each other laugh and not get too serious before a show. But it’s a tricky balance. Essentially we’re trying to enter into a state of semi-focused hysteria so we can go out and have the most fun possible without completely losing our minds. 

What is your favourite book to play out in this production and why?

Josephine: Oooo, very good question. Book 3 is pretty good for me because Lottie does most of it and I get to sit on a little train rolling my eyes at her, which is quite a nice tiny rest as the first two books are quite hectic for me. But, I also tend to have more and more fun as the show goes on, and I like each book more as we go, the more we play with the audience etc. So I guess by that logic, my favourite is the last one. Number 7!

3. Do you try to play all the main characters in the series?

Josephine: Yes. Pretty much. There’s thousands of them, so I don’t know what percentage we actually cover, but we give it a red hot go.

Who’s your favourite character to play?

Josephine: Don’t tell anyone because I do whinge about it a lot, but I love being the Golden Snitch. 

If you went to Wizard School what house do you think you would be sorted to?

Josephine: I’ve done the online test a couple of times and I always get Gryffindor. But does everyone get Gryffindor on that website? I *am* extremely brave and noble to be fair, so it checks out, but I’m also really exceptionally clever, so maybe Ravenclaw? I’m also very humble though, which I imagine is probably more of a Hufflepuff trait. That said, I also enjoy bullying Lottie and being very cunning, and these are classic Slytherin activities. I guess I’m a cusp. 

If you could have a wizard trait, what would you wish for?

Josephine: Teleportation. It’s basic I know, but who doesn’t love free travel? And you haven’t asked but I think I would choose an owl for a pet. Or cat. Not toad, WHO chooses toad?!

How do you balance respecting the true Harry Potter storyline while working on a parody?

Josephine: By being lucky enough to simply be given the excellent scripts; we take care of the jokey fun side of it and the lovely writers take care of the storyline. 

What can you tell us about the costumes in this production?

Josephine: Ha, well, I mainly play Harry. I get off very lightly, jeans, top, bit of pen on my face, glasses. Lottie wears approximately 10 million wigs, capes, hats, puppets etc and should probably win some sort of quick change award. 

We anticipate this as being a fast-paced show, any fun stuff you wouldn’t want audiences to miss?

Josephine: Hmmmm, well DON’T be late or you’ll lose house points. Hehe. But seriously, it’s all good stuff really, hard to choose a best bit. The Quidditch match is excellent. The dance off is… also good.

This is 2 actors on stage and this time and both females! Can you tell us more?

Josephine: It is a first this year! We did it in Dublin over the summer which was brilliant, so they’ve kept us on. I think they’ve wanted to explore a female cast for a while so it was amazing to be asked, and such an honour to be handed the baton. It’s such an incredible show with so much warmth and fun, and a really wild and brilliant fanbase. I also found it pretty moving last year to meet young girls at the stage door who came to ask about acting and how to get into performing. I don’t know if they’d have done that with a male cast. I love that they felt confident enough to come and chat about that after seeing us play every character for the past hour and I hope to see them in their own fantastically weird shows one day. And why not gender flip it? It’s probably the least mad thing about the show.

Love that! Anything else you’d like us to know?  

Just that I’m extremely excited to be in Canada, never been before and cannot wait. I’m a huge potato and cheese fan so I anticipate feeling very at home. Come say hello!

Potted Potter at the Bluma Appel Theatre. Thursday, December 21 – Friday, January 14, 2024 with performances Wednesdays to Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Perfect for those six to Dumbledore. More info and tickets can be found here.

*lead in photo by Samuel Regan-Asante for Unsplash