PUFFS or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic is all about the background characters – What happened; what’ll happen next and, most importantly, do they, in fact, view themselves as background characters at all? These are the questions that PUFFS director, Kristin McCarthy-Parker, and playwright, Matt Cox, seek to answer.
Set across seven years in a certain unnamed magical school, PUFFS follows the lives of three students who’re just trying to get by while another young upstart causes chaos. (Those of you who aren’t quite sure what this could possibly be a parody of — the nearest millennial, or Google if really necessary, is your best friend.)
“It started off the back of a larger production,” McCarthy-Parker explains. “Matt and I were working on Kapow-i GoGo (according to mattcoxland.com is an epic, three-part, live-action hybrid of Dragon Ball Z, Cyberpunk Space Operas, most of the Final Fantasies and every other after-school cartoon you watched in the mid-to-late ’90s) and we were thinking about doing something smaller, when Matt went, what if; what would it be like to live in the shadow of someone else at a magical school…?”
This response is a hat tilt to McCarthy-Parker’s improv-comedy roots as well as her adeptness for picking apart popular culture — loves which clearly colour the rest of McCarthy-Parker’s answers, as well as her impressive resume. (Previous hits include the retelling of Jurassic Park in ‘Hold On To Your Butts!’ and ‘Fly, You Fools!’, the inspiration for which surely doesn’t need to be named.)
“We chose this particular story since so many people will have a lot of familiarity with it, a lot of affinity; audiences were sure to be engaged and entertained, “ McCarthy-Parker explains of PUFFS. “And that gave us great ground to build emotional resonance — not just jokes — upon. Yes, we’ve worked hard to include references and jokes that most fans [of a certain series] can understand, but we’ve also tried to expand the world to beyond just that humour.”
And it shows. In preview reels, PUFFS’ humour plays as smart, savvy and tapped in to a vocabulary and, at least, facsimile of a world most will be familiar with But just as quickly, jokes turn on a needle tip to what McCarthy-Parker fittingly describes as ‘deep cuts’. Other tweaks have been made here and there as well to Australianise the performance, (mainly references and language idioms), with the assistance of what McCarthy-Parker describes as a ‘wonderful’ cast. (And of course, there’ll be further tweaks yet for PUFFS family friendly weekend matinees.)
But for McCarthy-Parker, Cox, and creatives, primarily, the heart and focus on PUFFS is far from highlighting the extraordinariness of one boy or girl over the rest. Rather, their focus lies on celebrating the sublime mundanity so many of us experience: encouraging us to fully engage with the extraordinariness of the ordinary.
“For me, my favourite thing, and the reaction I most enjoy in audiences is when they tell me they knew they came here to laugh, but they didn’t expect to cry at things in the play as well,” McCarthy-Parker says. “That’s important to us. That’s universal.”
PUFFS (written by Matt Cox) burst onto the New York stage in December 2015 and is still wowing audiences today at New World Stages with bookings open thru to March 2019. This is the international premiere of PUFFS and a three week extension (until July 8th) was recently announced.
May 26 – June 17