Review: Puffs, Alex Theatre

Isabelle Oderberg

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, the stage production Puffs is going to make you laugh until you cry.
Review: Puffs, Alex Theatre

Matt Whitty, Annabelle Tudor, Tammy Weller, Daniel Cosgrove, Rob Mills, Zenya Carmellotti, Keith Brocket, Ryan Hawke and Olivia Charalambous in Puffs. Photo by Ben Fon.

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, the stage production Puffs is going to make you laugh until you cry. It might be an alternate story and militant purists should be wary, but if you have a sense of humour and you have a soft spot for wizards and muggles, you are pretty much guaranteed two hours of near-constant laughter.

While much entertainment stemming from the Potterverse is usually aimed at kids, the evening version of Puffs has a 15+ rating, with lots of Pott(er)y-mouth and a minor but enjoyable dose of bump and grind. There is a slightly toned down version that’s more kid-friendly during the matinees, but only take that option if it’s a small-human necessity. The hilarity of the evening version should be experienced.

Keith Brockett, Tammy Weller, Annabelle Tudor, Matt Whitty, Rob Mills, Zenya Carmellotti, Daniel Cosgrove, Olivia- Charalambous and Ryan-Hawke in Puffs. Photo by Ben Fon.

The premise of the production, which started its life as an off-Broadway offering, is that we know all about what happened to the characters central to the Harry Potter story (the three amigos and their mates), but what about all the bit characters in the background? What about the characters whose names we know, but were not much more than window dressing for the fab three?

And what about the Hufflepuffs? We know all about Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, but what makes the Puffs tick?

This show simply couldn’t work without an outstanding cast, so that’s what the producers got. The script, written by New York-based Matt Cox, is lightning fast and the one liners are so frequent you feel like you’ve watched a comedy equivalent of an Olympic ping pong match, but not a single member of the cast misses a beat.

The only ‘well-known’ cast member among the ensemble is Rob Mills, who comes with a good background in musical theatre and cabaret. While his Cedric was funny, his depiction of a certain big bad evil was the side-splitting highlight of the show for many.

Many of the actors perform multiple characters in a single scene and it’s riveting, convincing and just completely entertaining. All of these players bring sparkle and wit to the production and deserve to have huge careers ahead of them.

My only very slight discomfort was with the casting of Oliver. While the actor (Keith Brockett) was one of strongest on stage with some of the sharpest comedic timing, I wonder how Asian audience-members felt that the only actor who appeared to have Asian heritage was cast as the kid who’s desperate to study maths and was in the accelerated learning program. Perhaps I’m being sensitive, but it did feel like it was playing to out-dated stereotypes a tad.

Ryan Hawke, Eva Seymour and Keith Brockett in Puffs. Photo by Ben Fon.

Just like the books and movies, the play, which features each of the seven book as a chapter, ramps up into the more adult and dark themes in the second half, getting more frenetic and frenzied as it goes.

There are piss-takes of characters, storylines and the movie productions, but never in anything other than an affectionate way, leaving you with a sweet taste in your mouth as you walk out through the immaculately decorated theatre, set up to look like the Puffs common room.

As we walked past the signup poster for the toad choir, the audience was buzzing, filled with an innocent joy and happiness only the world of witchcraft and wizardry can provide.  

Rating: 4 stars  ★★★★

Puffs Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic

Playwright: Matt Co
Director: Kristin Mccarthy Parker
Original Music Composed By: Brian Hoes
Production Designer: Madeleine Bundy
Lighting Design Based On The Ny Production In Collaboration With
Herrick Goldman Lighting Design
Sound Designer: Matt Cox
Producer: Teg Live
Tilted Windmills Theatricals
John Arthur Pinckard & David Carpenter

26 May - 12 August, 2018
Alex Theatre, St Kilda 

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

A veteran journalist, Isabelle Oderberg is a comedy fanatic and has been reviewing comedy for six years. She also reviews restaurants, opera and theatre