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‘Puffs’ is the Potter-inspired show that will tug at your heart strings

★★★★★

Image source: 
Ben Fon

These are the four houses for the four kinds of students that attend a certain very famous school of magic. Which house a student belongs to is decided by a sentient hat that assesses the children’s fundamental character upon their admission.
 
For any fan of the Potter – yes I said it, even though the play never does – universe, much hilarity is found in the fact that Puffs are essentially the ‘miscellaneous’ or ‘other’ of the wizard schooling system.
 
Puffs is the story of the others who attended, as the title so cleverly puts it, seven increasingly eventful years of wizard school alongside the household name Harry Potter, the boy who lived, and also saved the world and wizardkind.
 
There was more than one orphan with a tragic backstory who attended Hogwarts in the ‘90s. The Puff equivalent is Wayne (Ryan Hawke), who believes he’s destined for greatness as he leaves behind his quintessentially bogan Aussie uncle for the wizard life.
 
Our trio is rounded out by Megan (Eva Seymour), a Puff who wishes to be a Snake, inspired by her Puff mother who now serves the Dark Lord; and Oliver (Keith Brockett) a ‘mugg-born’ math prodigy who is ushered to remedial magic classes.
 
Following these three, and their fellow Puffs, our narrator takes us through all seven Potter novels at lightning speed, including book four “The Puffs and The Year They Mattered”. This is also known as the year that overachieving Puff – played by the ever charming Rob Mills – meets his untimely demise, leaving our host of misfit Puffs to face their final three years without the leadership of their charismatic leader.
 
Much of the play’s comedy is in its avoidance of copyright infringement, yet still remaining so ridiculously true to the much-loved narrative and its quirks.
 
It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, poking fun at everything from butterbeer, to the students calling their googly-eyed professor “Real Mr Moody”, though this is admittedly coming from a Harry Potter superfan who is still awaiting her letter that’s been lost in the post for 14 years. Like a new episode of Arrested Development, be warned that the play is likely not going to raise more than a smirk for anyone who isn’t at least familiar with the franchise.
 
The small cast takes on the huge task of bringing to life an entire host of faculty – though disappointingly, Umbridge makes no cameo – and they do so with such panache, it’s easy to forget these are merely side performances to a beautifully performed, central cast of Puff characters.
 
Though it has an underground, understated feel, that’s a huge part of the show’s charm. It wouldn’t make sense for a show about Puffs, the characters no one ever really knew much about, to be a huge blockbuster matching that of the Brave.
 
The emotional heart and takeaway message of Puffs is so beautifully universal, adding a special layer to the show: If you ever feel inadequate in comparison to someone else, remember the Puffs. They may not have felt brave, smart, or ambitious, but they still really mattered.