We all know the famed story of the Boy Who Lived and his famed seven years at a magical school in the United Kingdom, with multiple books and movies documenting his achievements and challenges throughout the years. The Wizarding World really is an amazing place – a world that many wish to belong to. Unless you’re a Puff of course, then you’re stuck just watching from the sidelines.
Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic is a fantastic off-Broadway hit that has finally made it debut in Melbourne. The plot of the performance revolves around those watching the events of the Boy Who Lived from the sidelines, more specifically, those in a certain badger-mascotted house. Declared as the losers of the school, the Puffs spend Harry’s seven years at Wizarding School, watching from the sidelines and while attempting to make a name for themselves within the school.
The main character of Puffs is Wayne – another magical orphan boy, but with a little less splendour than the one that we already know. Hailing from outback Australia, Wayne heads to a certain magic school with the intent of becoming a hero and saving the school. As he is sorted into the puffs, this dream doesn’t quite reach fruition as he wishes. The entire production is filled with tongue-in-cheek gags and off-hand jokes that will leave any Potter-fan rolling in the aisles with laughter. The play manages to allude to all things magical – without hitting on a single trademarked or copyrighted word or name. This speaks to the incredible writing that has gone into the script that all the audience was well aware of exactly what it was that was happening throughout – even though we do not hear it explicitly being said at any point.
There is clearly a lot of effort that has gone into the set of the production – the theatre is decked out in the traditional black and gold of the Puffs, with the lobby and bar of the theatre playing into the theme also. The stage itself is set up with only one clear set for the entire production – this is not a disadvantage however, as the cast successfully create an atmosphere that allows the audience to clearly imagine and understand where it is they are meant to be for every scene of the play. There are numerous nods throughout to token magical objects and creatures that appear throughout the famous movies; the mirror of erised appears multiple times throughout, the effect of which is quite stunning.
As with the classic Potter books – this story also focuses on a trio of friends that stick by each other throughout the years. The previously mentioned Wayne, played by Ryan Hawke – who embraces the role of the plucky, optimistic student with a bright eyed enthusiasm. Accompanying him is the character of Oliver, played by Keith Brockett, an incredibly gifted maths genius – but a very poor magic student, one that does not take being bad at school well. Lastly is Megan, played by Eva Seymour, a quite stereotypical emo kid who, despite being sorted in the puffs, is determined to live up to her dark witch mother’s expectations. Both Beckett and Seymour are thoroughly entertaining throughout, playing up to each other with a humorous dramatic approach.
The rest of the cast are superb as well, playing into their roles with determination and a clear sense of fun. Many play multiple roles throughout, sometimes changing character in the split second that they disappear off stage – this is thoroughly impressive as their appearances do not change dramatically – however many audiences members would be hard-pressed to tell it was the same actor.
Puffs is the production for any that have ever thought they’re a sideline character in their own movie. This is an immensely fun and entertaining show for any Harry Potter fan, and a definite must see while it is showing in Melbourne.
Puffs is showing from 31st May – 8th July at Alex Theatre. There are evening shows suitable for ages 15+, plus family-friendly weekend matinees with all the swearing removed. Tickets can be purchased from the ticketek website.