Finally, a win for Hufflepuff!
The story of the Boy Wizard has taken the world by storm across literature, movies, large ranges of merchandise and even now a play which opened last season on the West End. But while this franchise has taken readers on an exploration through many magical lands, there is one significant question about the Hogwarts experience that it failed to answer. What was it like for all the other students of Hogwarts during the time of Harry Potter? Enter Puffs.
Of the four Hogwarts houses, Hufflepuff are known as the most inclusive house. They value hard work, loyalty, dedication and fair play . . . rather than looking for a particular aptitude in their members. This means that Hufflepuffs often end up being a frequently maligned, yet endlessly positive group of people. And it’s these people’s perspective which is chosen to retell the well-known story of Harry Potter in Puffs.
Puffs takes the audience on a two hour journey through all seven Harry Potter books but from the perspective of a house who really only got a proper look in when Cedric Diggory was selected to compete in the Triwizard Tournament against Harry Pottery himself. And we all know how that turned out. But despite the death of their most talented student, this Hufflepuff experience is roll-in-the-aisles hilarious.
Matt Cox, the writer behind this new play, has done an incredible job of pulling together the most comedy-ready moments from across the franchise and making comedy out of some of the series’ most serious scenes. Some of the highlights include how they have brought to life the changing of Dumbledore actors from the movie, the new take on the traditional Sorting Hat, the endless slew of Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers, Cedric Diggory’s Triwizard Tournament bathroom scene (unseen in the books) and the characterization of Harry, Ron and Hermione the few times they appear on stage. Especially Ron. It’s hard to wash that memory from your head.
But this clever writing is only enhanced by being placed into the hands of some hilarious comedic actors who are tasked with bringing it to life using only a series of unexpected, household props.
The story largely centres around Ryan Hawke who plays Wayne – a student who begins his Hogwarts education the same year as Harry. It’s a tough role to play, being the central character in the same Harry Potter universe we know and love. But he manages to win the audience over into the Hufflepuff house despite often being thwarted by or the victim of one of Harry’s storylines – and is the only character who finally tires of aspiring to third place (knowing that Gryffindor and Slytherin will always take the focus). Special shout out also to Eva Seymour who plays the surly Megan and feels much more akin to her Slytherin brethren than the ever-positive Hufflepuffs, as well as Daniel Cosgrove who plays the complete opposite end of the scale as the stereotypical Hufflepuff, J. Finch.
Featured amongst this cast is star of Wicked, Grease, Legally Blonde and Ghost, Rob Mills playing both Cedric Diggory and a late Act 2 appearance as He Who Must Not Be Named as well. In a role unlike a lot of the others he has been fortunate to play, Rob Mills shines when finally given the opportunity to really stretch his comedic muscle. His ever hopeful Cedric Diggory is one of the show’s highlights – despite the fact that the whole audience knows how that story is going to end – and his Voldemort turn is quite an unexpected direction for the Dark Lord but he manages to captivate the audience with his impersonation of a character who we really shouldn’t be laughing at.
The final highlight of the night actually exists outside the play. Most of the props at the actors’ disposal are common, everyday items which adds to the hilarity of the story that is being told. And the production designers have taken this idea into the theatre decorating the walls and surrounds with items that aren’t actually very magical but manage to engulf the audience into their own Hogwarts experience. Not only does this allow the actors to move freely from the stage into the audience without leaving their world, but it allows the audience to embrace this truly fictional world from the second they enter.
Puffs is must-see night of Melbourne theatre that truly highlights a lot of comedy misses in J.K. Rowling’s original texts – who would have thought that the Hogwarts journey could actually be a comedy?
Running at the Alex Theatre, St. Kilda for strictly limited season until July 8, Puffs will certainly sell out once word gets around about this hilarious production. Book your tickets now before they all disappear at www.ticketek.com.au
(Note: This magical production is not suitable for all young wizards and wizardesses. Evening performances are recommended for ages 15+ with some new family friendly Puffs matinees on Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 1pm suitable for ages 8+. They’ve kept the curses but removed the curse words!)