Review: Puffs

The magical world of Harry Potter seen from an ultra-novel perspective

By Narelle Wood

 

Let’s face it, anything Harry Potter based comes with some pretty big expectations, given the beloved characters and world that J.K. Rowling created. Puffs or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic does not disappoint, adding more loveable characters to the loveable world, now seen from a different perspective: the dormitory next to the kitchen.

Puffs explores what it would be like to go to a certain magic school at the same time as Harry Potter is gallivanting about saving everyone from impending dark wizard doom. Wayne (Ryan Hawke), a loveable geeky wizard, finds out on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard and begins his time at magic school by being sorted into the Puffs – an ultra-friendly group of students who fail a lot. Wayne soon befriends maths savant Oliver (Keith Brockett) and wanna-be evil wizard Meghan (Eva Seymour). Together the three wizards seek out adventure, magic and deal with the constant stress of an exceptionally unsafe school environment. Of course, no Harry Potter story, even one that features Wayne as a central character would be complete without some Harry, Ron and Hermione cameos, as well as a familiar monster or two and the evil wizard with no nose.

It would be easy to think that Puffs is Harry Potter spoof, but nothing could be further from the truth. The funniest moments come from the nuanced jokes that pay homage to Harry and his devoted fans. The storyline is built around the key events of the six years Harry is at school and the 7th year where he doesn’t attend as a student, but rather as one of the leaders of the wizarding war.

Playwright Matt Cox manages to highlight some of the absurdities of the wizarding world, mostly the idea that school is the safest place and yet every year the students find themselves in mortal danger. The writing is clever and witty and even with a large ensemble cast, the audience grows to know and care about the characters.

PUFFS-10_Gareth-Isaac_Annabelle-Tudor_Matt-Whitty_Eva-Seymour_Ryan-Hawke_Zenya-Carmellotti_Keith-Brockett_Olivia-Charalambous_Tammy-Weller_Daniel-Cosgrove
Photographs: Ben Fon

It is hard to fault this production, actually impossible. The cast, under direction of Kristin McCarthy Parker, are amazing as they run on and off stage through multiple exits, many switching between multiple characters. Matt Whitty’s portrayal of a certain potions master is eerily accurate, Rob Mills as Cedric is full of slightly creepy charm, and you could not wish for a perkier narrator than Gareth Isaac. The whole theatre is decked out in Puffs and magic school paraphernalia. All this, as well as lighting and haze effects, might have one almost think they are in the great hall itself.

This is a must for any Potter-loving-person. It is witty, charming and mostly family friendly (there is a sports coach who has a tendency for some colourful language). I giggled and guffawed the whole way through and, despite the soul-sucking security guards, I am definitely planning a return trip.

Puffs’ extended season runs until 8 July at Alex Theatre St Kilda. Evening performances are ideal for children aged 15+ and matinees for those aged 8+. Tickets are available online and by calling the box office on 132 849.

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