Potter fans go Potty in Exeter’s Great Hall

Like many an Oxford student I have been in the unenviable position being asked by a tourist ‘Where is Hogwarts?’ while strolling along Broad Street. The injuries resulting from attempting to point simultaneously at Christ Church, the Bod and New might be enough to turn someone off the Boy Who Lived. Fortunately for this Potterhead the immersive screening of Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban held at Exeter College was a right roaring success and brought back my love for Longbottom with a vengeance.

It was not an event for the faint of heart, however, catering instead for those keen enough on fanlore to exchange stories of Drapple pairings and fanon ships. True, there were specially crafted drinks on sale for those who needed more than fangasm to turn them into squeeing, excited wrecks, but the proportion of Potterheads was definitely high, from freshers to postgrads. After being greeted by Madam Hooch (played by Sarah Kroloff) I was whisked via a quick flying lesson – it seems I’ll never be the Chaser I’d hoped to be – to the Great Hall. Exeter’s fine high beamed hall made for a brilliantly atmospheric setting even if Exeter itself never featured in the film franchise.

I was unceremoniously sorted into Hufflepuff and, reeling with shame, proceeded to feast on chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts Beans and toffees supplied by the trolley witch from the Hogwarts Express. The mood was too high for me to feel low for long. There was a twenty minute gap before the film began, which I spent swapping stories, from first encounters with fanfic to wearing gowns to see the final film.

During this lull, actors playing various characters, including Rita Skeeter and Luna Lovegood, strolled around the hall, sending anyone who encountered them into fits of giggles. Special mention must go to Severus Snape, whose Rickman impression proved hysterical. I got away with a special memento – a Daily Prophet signed by Gilderoy Lockhart, whose signature graced everything in sight. The Sorting Hat’s song proved a little more cutting than the teen-friendly books’ version, opening one verse with ‘Slytherins, you smarmy cunts!’ and saying what we all knew to be true about Hufflepuffs: ‘deemed failures by a hat.’

The film itself is one of the more problematic in the franchise for hard core fans, with its tendency to leave out crucial details, gloss over the cracks those absences cause and then vault straight into inconsistency without even a word of warning. There’s the fact that Hagrid’s hut moves about half a mile from the second film, that no class lasts longer than ten minutes and that Ron and Hermione’s burgeoning romance, which seemed cute when I was twelve, is a bit creepy in retrospect. Among fellow fans though the problems with the film only added to the enjoyment of the evening, as hushed conversations about this or that continuity error allowed us to revel in our slightly excessive fandom. Whoops and applause greeted several moments, as did the closing credits. The only disappointment of the evening was having to travel home by a regular old night bus, instead of a flying car.