‘Puffs’ was magical.
‘Puffs’ presented by Shoebox Theatre Company at the Empire Theatre’s Armitage Centre, enthralled audiences by exploring a new story in the well-known world of a certain school of witchcraft and wizardry. Shoebox Theatre is a community theatre company located in Toowoomba, Queensland, who are dedicated to producing and presenting quality theatre in intimate spaces.
For seven years, a certain boy wizard went to a certain Wizard School and conquered evil. This, however, is not his story. This is the story of the Puffs…who just happened to be there too. This play is a tale for anyone who has never been destined to save the world.
After successful runs on Off and Off-Off Broadway, the contemporary play ‘Puffs’ was nominated for the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for “Best Unique Theatrical Experience” in 2017. The tongue-in-cheek show makes fun of the original intellectual property, without making the fans of the franchise the punchline. The show addresses such earth-shattering questions as, who teaches sex-ed at the famous secondary school of magic?
Mary Quade’s inventive set design was effective, using a range of moving door mechanisms to create the vast castle school setting. Audiences were swept into the world of the play from the moment they entered the theatre, with large tree set pieces adorning the entrance.
The most obvious and outstanding use of technical atmospheric and aesthetic components was that of the hooded security guards who watch over the wizard prison. The unsettling mood associated with the Dementor characters was created through the use of an unnerving soundscape, moody lighting and large puppets. The audible reaction from the audience was evidence of its effect on the room.
The ensemble cast of eleven, directed by Kyle Dever, worked seamlessly together on stage.
Justin Tamblyn’s performance as the narrator – who acts as a gateway between the audience, original intellectual property and the world of ‘Puffs,’ – was captivating. Flynn Walmsley’s hilarious depiction of several well-known staff members of the wizard school was a clear audience favourite.
‘Puffs’ by Shoebox Theatre Company utilised clever technical elements and well-timed humour to tell a wholesome story of heroism despite the odds. As overtly silly as this play is in its willingness to make fun of the franchise it parodies, it seems like an important story in a time when the world may seem surrounded by darkness.
The moral of a story like ‘Puffs’ is that magic, hope, and a sense of belonging can always be found through friendship and unwavering resilience.
‘Puffs’ performed until Sunday, 29th October 2023 at The Empire Theatre, Toowoomba.