10 to 25 March
I followed up one show with another down in Beaumaris last night with the closing night of Beaumaris Theatre Company’s production of Puffs, Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School Of Magic And Magic. Oh parody shows, they always have a way at making the audience question everything they know about the original source material yet they always say what we’re all thinking, but that always seems to be the charm of them and why they continue to get laughs even in the climate of today’s PC universe. Being a fan of the Harry Potter film franchise, I wasn’t sure at first how to write a review for this production as it was particularly difficult to put my thoughts into my usual wording format and it may have been one of the first times I was speechless after watching a show. In all the best ways possible, Puffs was easily one of the most bizarre plays I’d ever seen, still it was the definition of what a parody show ought to be with all the goofiness, hilarity and absurdism required and that’s a theatrical accomplishment all by itself.
In the director’s chair of this production were not one but two Beaumaris regulars who have had hands in bringing many of the company’s productions to life, Kristina Doucouliagos and Dan Bellis. Together, they took their own love of the Harry Potter franchise to a whole new level with this unconventional tale of Hufflepuff house, proving that even though they may be the least prominent house in the Harry Potter franchise, their loyalty and lament for it was an interesting story worth every minute of your time, with both familiar faces of the franchise and even some new ones. Doucouliagos and Bellis had their work cut out for them trying to bring Hogwarts to life on the Beaumaris stage but they seized the opportunity head first and managed to create an awesome spectacle of the wizarding world in their creative vision, as they allowed their actors to have as much fun as possible with the prospects of being part of one of the most beloved franchises in the world in a comical and commanding directorial effort.
The cast also had their work cut out for them as they needed to play literally everyone in the franchise from students to teachers to villains to mythical monsters to even mops and mannequin heads, but they all deep sea dived into the challenge and produced comedy gold, whether they were playing one or twenty different characters. Throughout the production’s run time, there were really only five actors who stuck to playing mainly one character all throughout but first, my hat goes off to the remainder of the cast for playing everyone else. David Cowell, Tina Chambers, Stuart Anderson, Natasha Rayner, Alice Clapperton, Kianna Bartolo and Sam Wyles showed real loyalty to the acting craft in true Hufflepuff fashion with their multiple portrayals of the entire Hogwarts student and teacher body, their abilities to shift from one character to the next in a matter of seconds was highly commendable and charismatic and props to you all for not developing multiple personality disorder throughout this fantastical theatrical season. Leading the cast was Wayne Hopkins, a puff who was constantly searching for not only his worth in the age of Harry Potter but also his own destiny to be the hero of his own story and he was brought to life by Beaumaris regular Lucas Petropoulos with his first major lead role in the company. During the show, Petropoulos made Wayne’s story his own with all the extravagance and electricity necessary to be a prominent part of the wizarding world despite Wayne being a new character in the Potterverse and this performance was nothing short of star-making as far as Beaumaris Theatre Company is concerned.
What’s a lead in the potterverse without their two best friends and no, I’m not talking about Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, that’s the other story, but sure enough, Wayne found his own Ron and Hermione in the form of Oliver Rivers and Megan Jones, who were played by Josh Pratt and Justine Garnes respectively. Pratt’s portrayal of a muggleborn math prodigy who can now only advance in muggle studies and desperately tries to find his footing in the wizarding world was a highly precious and purposeful one, as he shined a light on what it’s like to be the new guy in a world that is particularly foreign who finds their true home, giving Puffs its heart. Meanwhile, Garnes’ portrayal of a witch who goes through most of the show thinking she was born to be in Slytherin instead of Hufflepuff due to her mother’s death eater status, but finds her own family and friends in the house she first resented and now represents gave Puffs it’s fire and her sassy and seductive performance shined a light on those who are yet to discover their own identity, feel lost without knowing and try their hardest to create their own legacy. Althought they weren’t part of the main trio in Puffs, the king and queen of this production had some of the most important roles, with one portraying both arguably, the most well-known Hufflepuff in history and the dark lord himself and the other telling the entire Hufflepuff story and they were Harrison Ewart-Dart in the role of Cedric Diggory and later Lord Voldemort and Alarna Summers in the role of the narrator. Along with being the production’s king, Ewart-Dart also proved to be the king of “cool” as Cedric as for the first act, he acted as the Puffs’ fearless leader, always willing to guide each cast member on stage to be their comedic best in every aspect and each of their characters permission to be unapologetically themselves and by the time Cedric was famously killed off at the end of the first act to make way for his hilarious portrayal of He Who Must Not Be Named, the impression was already made in a performance that was magnetic as Diggory and maleficent as Voldemort. As for Summers, her unforgettably dedicated take on Puffs’ narrator was a real delight to witness as she told the story so enthusiastically and enchantingly to become the evening’s flawless host, especially with her being a Hufflepuff herself in both the show and even in real life according to the popular house quiz online and despite not knowing if it was intentional or not, the revelation that the narrator turned out to be Wayna, Oliver and Megan’s namesake daughter in the nineteen years later segment, allowed her performance to be ever more poetic.
Beaumaris Theatre Company had truly done it again by providing one of the most unique and unforgettable nights in my almost decade long theatre journey as Puffs demonstrated that it was the ultimate Harry Potter parody within the first fifteen seconds of the production and despite being lost for words afterwards, I was unquestionably entertained by its silliness, striking comedic timing from each individual onstage and off and the overall sendup of the source material which I grew to love very early on in life. Special shoutout to Kianna Bartolo and Harrison Ewart-Dart for their performances in the production and to the entire cast and crew associated with Puffs on such a magical season (pun intended). Congratulations to Beaumaris for yet another incredible run and knox.
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