‘PUFFS’ // Brisbane Arts Theatre

‘PUFFS’ was spellbinding.

Nestled in Petrie Terrace’s Brisbane Arts Theatre, something magical has been bubbling and brewing, and on Saturday night, ‘PUFFS’ opened to greet audiences with a cheery ‘HI!’

‘PUFFS’, an unauthorised adaptation of J.K Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’, written by Matt Cox, is well-loved by fans of the series and theatre-goers alike for its outrageous comedy and fresh perspective on the tale, referencing pop culture and fandom inside jokes. It flips the script on the story readers have come to know, and recounts those iconic seven years from the perspective of the Puffs – a house that never had much of a voice. ‘PUFFS’ tells the heartwarming story of the importance of friendship and kindness in the face of an adversary. It follows Puff trio Wayne, Megan and Oliver through their time at a certain school for witches and wizards.

‘PUFFS’ enjoyed a wildly successful Australian professional season in 2019 and has now made its home with Brisbane’s iconic community theatre company, Brisbane Arts Theatre. The company has been producing theatre since 1936 and has a well-established reputation in the theatre scene, and with shows like this, it is easy to see why. Each technical aspect was executed to near perfection and the cast demonstrated a dedication to each of their roles and energy that never faltered throughout the show.

The lighting design by David Willis provided for some incredibly dynamic and emotional moments, particularly in the final scene of Act I. It created the illusion of magic spells and curses, and dramatically lit the set with the four house colours, circling through a whole rainbow spectrum to complement the tone of the scene.

The set, designed by Tim Pierce, was practical yet intricate. The actors utilised each platform and door in the space, bringing to mind the magical staircases and vast corridors of the Hogwarts castle. Costume design by Erin Tribble was transformative and captured with the authenticity of what it is like to dress yourself as a teenager.

Directed by Hannah Kassulke, this production is something to behold. She ensured that no aspect of the show was forgotten, and the whole creative team clearly had a love and reverence for the source material – their efforts shone through. Choreography by Michelle Radu, who also played a priceless one-sided adaptation of Harry, was electric, particularly in the interesting inclusion of Magic, played by Pheobe Lovell and Eleni Koutsoukis, who represented the spells and curses cast by the characters, and delivered phenomenal physical performances.

One magical moment in the production that truly showcased the talent of the directorial team was the scene depicting the final battle between the students and the army of the dark lord. This scene plunged the audience into what felt like a real-life fantasy battle. It provided some gut-wrenching moments which led to a heartwarming final goodbye for Wayne, and ensured not a single eye was left dry in the theatre.

The absolute highlight of PUFFS were the performers. A pleasure to watch, each cast member brought their own little piece of magic to the stage; playing numerous different characters and crafting unique and loveable interpretations of a Puff. Eloise Newman as the Narrator was an audience favourite, effortlessly guiding viewers through the fantastical world of ‘PUFFS’, often breaking the fourth wall and inciting audience participation in a few delightful moments between the action of the play.

Comedic standouts of the night were Douglas Berry and Ben Kasper, who played a host of different characters and had the audience in absolute stitches. Hannah Flannery and Lucy Rayner-Toy also embodied what it means to be a Puff. They moved effortlessly from rousing speeches to adorable cluelessness, were incredibly lively characters who charmed the audience, and were reminiscent of the loveable dorks everyone recalls from high school. Sam Gallon and Ash McCreanor portrayed satirical versions of He-Who-Shall-Must-Not-Be-Named and a house-elf respectively, playing witty spoofs on the original characters.

Of course, the lead Puffs, played by Bailey Sprecak, Kyle McCallion and Hannah Boyd had endless amounts of chemistry on stage and brought the audience on an immersive and fully fleshed-out journey through each of their character’s developments through school.

The production was a testament to the talent of Brisbane performers and creatives in a story that packs a riotous punch and makes you root for the underdogs. Or under-Puffs. Overall, Brisbane Arts Theatre’s ‘PUFFS’ is not to be missed for any fan of a certain boy-wizard, or anyone looking for a downright fun night supporting local artists. It was the most fun I have had in a theatre for as long as I can remember.

PUFFS performs until 18 December at Brisbane Arts Theatre. For more information visit Brisbane Arts Theatre’s website.

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Photography by Images by Anderson.

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