PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic – if you are a Hufflepuff then this show is for you! This New York smash hit will have its Australian premiere at the Alex Theatre later this month and it’s one that no -one familiar with ‘the boy who lived’ will want to miss. Matthew Cox’s hysterical play covers the seven year span when a certain boy wizard went to a certain school of magic, but this is not his story – this is the story of The Puffs, who just happened to be there, too.
UK born Australian based actor, Keith Brockett, plays Oliver Rivers a math genius. ” He’s smart. Like SMART smart, ” says Brockett. “And he’s been used to being correct even in a room full of people much older than him. But now he’s completely out of his element and fallen to the bottom of the learning food chain, and I love seeing how he deals with that. He’s also never been around people his own age, or even had real friends before, I think. So watching him grow over those seven years from a boy to a man, making life-long friends and learning to be a good, loyal, trustworthy human, it makes me feel like a proud parent!”
As every Potter fan knows, Hufflepuff is one of the four houses of Hogwarts (house mascot: the Badger) and possibly the most underrated. Hufflepuffs can’t claim virtues such as bravery or cunning or intelligence as their own but are, instead, patient, loyal and, well, dull. Surprisingly, PUFFS does very little to lift the lid on mediocrity as a failing and instead celebrates the nobody in us all. Cox’s play is that wonderful juxtaposition of heart and humour that affects an audience so profoundly. As an actor, Brockett was lured by this very duality:
Says Brockett: “Whenever I’m trying to decide if a project is right for me, I always ask myself: Will I have fun? It’s called a “play”, after all! And by the time I’d reached the last page of PUFFS, I was desperate to be a part of it. Matt has done something very special in that he has created this amazing piece which you think you know, but you really don’t. You might recognise a name or two, or a reference here or there, but Matt’s world is completely unique, his characters have their own particular voices, and you can’t help but fall in love with them because of who they are and what they go through, rather than happening around them. At the heart of his play is one word: Sincerity. And laughter. That’s three words. But regardless, there’s something there for everyone to enjoy, be they young or old, fans or otherwise.”
For Potter fans, the play may be as familiar as a butterbeer from The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, but being a Potter fan is not a prerequisite for embarking across the landscape of Cox’s fabulously funny play.
Brockett himself was late coming to the party with the series, being told about it by his sister after the release of the second movie. However, he does remember reading the version of the books with the ‘boring’ black-and-white covers because he was too afraid of people seeing a grown man read a children’s book in public!
The original New York production has been updated for this Australian premiere by Matt Cox and director Kristin McCarthy Parker to bring this piece to life for local audiences with a whole new company of local actors. And while the rehearsal process has only just started, Brockett’s evaluation is that it’s going great!
“Our director, Kristin McCarthy Parker, and Matt have flown all the way from NYC to lead us through this and we couldn’t have asked for better people to be at the helm,” he says. “They have only been doing this for the last three years Off-Broadway, after all! But you can tell that they have a genuine love for the show, and that is so infectious. It makes you want to give it your all, to make this the best show it deserves to be. We also have a cast of fourteen, and are getting on like a house on fire. ”
Brockett is always happy when he has a script in his hand and, while he doesn’t really gravitate towards specific characters or themes, he does look out for good writing stating that he is a sucker for some good old text analysis! He loves characters that allow themselves to -be- themselves. “Honesty on stage is such a beautiful thing: it reminds actor and audience alike that there is nothing more liberating and freeing than being truthful to others and yourself,” he says.
From the perspective of PUFFS, Brockett describes the hardest thing about it to date as seeing it come together! “From the jaw-droppingly brilliant NYC production stills and concept art, to seeing the set pieces and props being installed on stage, you realise what an amazing treat Australian audiences are in for – and also the dreaded realisation that you won’t get to see the show as it was meant to because you’ll be busy running around on stage!”
PUFFS gives you a new look at a familiar adventure from the perspective of three new heroes just trying to make it through magic school. It takes a second look at everyone’s favourite world of wizards through the eyes of The Puffs, a lovable group of magical misfits.
Says Brockett: “PUFFS is a show for everyone who never knew they are the hero of their own story. A show with heart. And laughs. And magic! And badgers (there may or may not be badgers)!!”
May 26 – June 17