J.K. Rowling's West End play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is set to open in Melbourne in early 2019, and is almost certain to break as many records locally as it has in London. But before Harry, Hermoine and Ron make their Australian theatrical debut, another group of Hogwarts students will take to the stage.
Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic tells the story of students unlucky enough to be sorted into Hufflepuff (and let's face it – even though Rowling claims that she is herself a Hufflepuff, nobody wants to be sorted into the house whose most famous student is Cedric Diggory). The characters in Puffs might not be destined for greatness, but that doesn't mean they don't make for fascinating theatre.
The play is set across the seven years when Harry Potter attended the school of witchcraft and wizardry. And while the Gryffindors and Slytherins get most of the attention of Hogwarts staff – and constantly threaten to derail the basic wizarding education most students are seeking – there's plenty happening to three students who went through school with the most famous boy wizard of all time.
The show will start performances at the Alex Theatre in St Kilda on May 26, with playwright Matt Cox and American director Kristin McCarthy Parker travelling to Australia to oversee the local production.
Miriam Margolyes (aka Head of Hufflepuff, Professor Sprout) was on hand to launch the local production, which will be updated for Australian audiences. Margolyes won't be appearing in the show, but its protagonist, Wayne, will be an Australian boy wizard played by Ryan Hawkes. His best friends are goth girl Megan (Eva Seymour) and math wiz Oliver (Keith Brockett). The full 13-member cast will be announced at a later date.
Puffs started Off Broadway in 2015 and has been playing ever since. Time Out New York reviewed the show last year, writing:
"A press release asks that the word parody be avoided in describing Puffs, but much of the show’s comedy is clearly aimed at Potterphiles. The 11 cast members play an assortment of characters, from a mumbling potions master to a squeaky house elf, and some of the jokes will be lost on those with no knowledge of the films or books. But even Potter virgins will enjoy the show’s witty wordplay and well-executed physical comedy."