Review: Puffs the Play8 June 2018
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably read the Harry Potter books, watched the movies, or both. Bonus points if you’ve done the house-sorting test on Pottermore! I know most do it with a house in mind, one they secretly want to be sorted into. The most popular choice is, to no one’s surprise, Gryffindor. After all, who wouldn’t want to be in the house of the heroes of the wizarding world? Slytherin and Ravenclaw come next, as fans come up with stories about them that redeem their unfair portrayal in the books and movies. But what about Hufflepuff? The house that people have loved to hate, whose most known qualities are being loyal and good finders?
Puffs is the play that tries to show you how life was as a background character in someone else’s story. Its storyline runs parallel to Harry Potter’s, starting with a young boy’s (Ryan Hawke) discovery of his wizard identity with an invitation to Hogwarts. There, he gets sorted as a Puff and meets the mathematical genius Oliver (Keith Brockett) and goth Death-Eater wannabe Megan (Eva Seymour). Throughout the play, we watch them and some other Puffs go through life at a wizarding school while some boy in another house tries not to get himself and the rest of the school killed year after year.
The comedy is impeccably written and performed; you really can’t stop laughing from beginning to end. It felt like a compilation of all of the inside jokes the Harry Potter fandom has made ever, and then some. The performance was fun and relaxed, and there was an energy in the room that seemed to uplift both the actors and the audience. They also have a scene where the actors are allowed to improv, which means you (and the actors) never know what you’re going to see during that show! What is more exciting than a show that changes every night? The set and props were simple but managed to create a Hogwarts vibe, and the lighting and sound effects were masterful (how did they do all those magic tricks? If one of the showrunners is reading this, please tell me).
The characters were only played by a small group of actors, most of which had multiple roles. Rob Mills is the perfect Cedric for the play–you could almost imagine them being canon if the HP movies were funnier and not so serious all the time (yes, Voldemort’s trying to kill you Harry, we get it!). I was most impressed by their portrayal of the Hogwarts professors though: Matt Whitty had the most hilariously accurate depiction of Snape and Quirrell I had ever seen, and him and Annabelle Tudor as Dumbledore were both amazing. If you’re an HP superfan, you’ll catch some familiar Puff names from the books too! The Golden Trio is in it too, if you’re wondering, though two of them aren’t even played by actors (I swear this isn’t clickbait).
There have been some Harry Potter parodies and spinoffs that have become so famous they’ve almost become compulsory viewing for HP fans–the Potter Puppet Pals and A Very Potter Musical series are a couple that come to mind. But Puffs is the first to tell the story of, well, the Puffs, who just happened to be there when that boy with the lightning scar decided to turn up and bring trouble with him.
The season is running until Sunday, July 8th at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda. The evening performances are recommended for audiences aged 15+, but if you have younger witches and wizards aged 8+ you want to bring there are family-friendly matinees on Saturdays at 2 pm and Sundays at 1 pm.