In the depths (or heights, possibly… there were a lot of staircases in different directions, almost like a mini Hogwarts itself) of Melbourne’s Butterfly Club, there can be found two Wizard Actors, fresh out of the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts, or WADA. They are Rob Lloyd and Caitlin Yolland, friends, partners in comedy, and extreme lore-lovers of Harry Potter and associated wizardy things.
The Wizard Actors have been called by Hermione Granger-Weasley, the present Minister for Magic, to give wizarding students a little history lesson, stemming from Ancient Egypt to today, and covering everything in-between. There are gags with the Time Turner, a magical object capable of taking its wearer back in time one hour per spin, which left one audience member frantically flipping the Turner until the music peaked and we had reached our destination in time. (This also allowed for some slick references back to Rob’s time as a Doctor Who comedian and his show “Who, Me?”.)
Aside from the fact that the content of this show is based exclusively on a book series read by 20 – 30 year olds, A Brief History of Magic would be considered extremely ‘millennial-friendly’. It opens with a promise to reclaim the word ‘wizard’ as gender-neutral, fortified by the gender-neutral bathrooms and extremely fun and quirky atmosphere inside the Butterfly Club itself, and closes with the declaration that Love Wins, referencing the absolute disaster of a same-sex marriage plebiscite late last year. If that turns up your nose, you probably don’t belong in the progressive atmosphere of a theatre or comedy club, but you can be relieved that the show is not political.
A Brief History of Magic is a comedy at heart, with jokes and references to tickle any audience member. There are references to real events – the Salem witch trials, mummification – alongside mentions of events specific to JK Rowling’s wizarding world – the enslavement of the house elves, the goblin uprising – which should delight anyone interested in any form of history. There’s a brief Quidditch match between both halves of the audience, which was playing with a Quaffle balloon and ‘facts’ rather than broomsticks. And there’s an Eduvision interlude, which felt a lot like a pair of Eurovision judges commentating on the most important wizarding schools throughout the ages.
The Wizard Actors call themselves ‘triple threats’, proclaiming their skills in singing, acting, and… magic. And it is clear that they are enormously talented performers. Lloyd continues his streak of brilliant comedic timing and characterisation, along with a hysterically rubber face, used to its peak during an interpretive dance segment narrated by Yolland. And Yolland is a spectacular physical performer, perfectly embodying every fantastic beast imaginable, as well as a remarkably cat-like Sphinx, which causes Lloyd and the audience to dissolve into giggles.
It is important to note that while this is scripted, there are moments where Lloyd and Yolland are caught up in their own jokes and break character to laugh. This is endearing more than anything else, as they are clearly passionate about their performance, but will likely tighten up in future performances. There are also moments where it felt like a line was missed, or they started to speak at the same time and cut each other off, but overall the show is fun and very wholesome, a wonderful way to relive muggle history and see how it changes in the wizarding world.