Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic has made its way from New York to Melbourne and it’s just as funny and full of
heart. We sat down with the lead actor Ryan Hawke who pays Wayne, a boy wizard from Queensland who finds himself studying magic at a particular school
in England, to ask him about his experience in this hilarious yet heart-warming show.
Had you heard much about a certain boy wizard before you came across Puffs?
Growing up I was a big fan! I remember Mum and Dad not being sure if we could be allowed to watch the movies, but we soon convinced them. My brothers and I were hooked! Watched every movie like 10 times and the books were always open.
We know Wayne is a Puff, but do you consider yourself a Snake, Smart, Brave or Puff and why?
I did take a certain test online and i was put in with the snakes.. However there is no doubt in my mind I am a Puff! Silly, not the best at sports (even if I think I am) and loyal to friends and family. Also I love to eat. That’s one of the best Puff traits.
Wayne is a very different protagonist to a certain boy wizard, how would you say he is a more accessible character to audiences?
I think Wayne changes the stereotype of the protagonist. He isn’t your classic prince or leading man. I was certainly drawn to the nerdy, socially awkward personality and found I could relate straight away as I feel audiences will too. You don’t have to be perfect, he certainly is not, but no one is. I think that is what people will be drawn to.
Photo by Ben Fon
As an actor, what challenges came along with playing a character like Wayne and what was it like evolving Wayne’s character as you portray him from age 11 to 17?
Wayne grows so much during these 7 years. In the beginning he isn’t fazed by not getting the magic right, or at all. But eventually it gets to him. So navigating that built up failure which does end up getting to him was tedious. Then accepting that and trying to move on is a big turn in his attitude towards magic and him growing up.
How much opportunity do you and your cast mates get to improvise during the show?
Myself, I don’t get a whole heap of improvisation. We did try things out early in the rehearsal process to make it Australian friendly which then got put in the show. There are plenty of other moments of improvisation especially with Zac Smith. Watch out for him!
Do you feel any responsibility in representing J.K. Rowling’s source material or do you consider Puffs to be a completely different entity?
I consider Puffs its own story set in the same world. We are sensitive to the fact we are playing with this massive franchise but we never make fun of, or downplay JK’s work.
How do you feel fans of the original series connect with Puffs and how accessible is it to new comers to the Wizarding World?
I believe fans connect quickly and love it so much more because this was the group that never got any limelight so this gives them a vessel to finally experience their story. Fans have said they didn’t expect to see themselves on that stage.
The Wizarding World is having somewhat of a renaissance at the moment with new films, a certain other play and the recently released mobile apps. What do you think the longevity of the source material is? And what does that mean for the future of Puffs and other fan created media?
The longevity of this world comes from the beautiful base story. It’s about friendship, loyalty and love. Everyone wants to feel and I think the greatest part of these stories is that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see this. Naturally people want to feel that again and again.
In your opinion, what is the importance of making fan created media like Puffs? How does it deepen fan engagement with the original series? Or how do audience participate with the material in a new way?
I think the fun of it reinvigorates fans. They want to see more and this gives fans the opportunity to have their jokes performed on stage. Its showing them the world from their perspective and they appreciate it so much.
In what way do you think Puffs helps audiences to engage with the original series in a new way?
Puffs gives you that love, that fun. It makes you think about the original. Makes you want to revisit it and look at those lovely themes in a little more detail. Makes you excited to be in this world again.
What are some other fan created media (based on Potter or otherwise) that you would recommend to those who love Puffs?
There is a show called Improvised Potter. Very fun, quick and intelligent. The people who perform it are super fans and connects well with audiences because its from their perspective.
The press release mentions that the show has been updated for Australian audiences. Have you read the original script? In what ways has the story changed?
We have just updated places, nicknames and accents with some of the characters. The story is the same. Some jokes we have updated for Aussie audiences and also some props have been tailored to be Australian.
How much were you able to work with Matt Cox and the original creators of Puffs during rehearsals? What insights were they able to give you that helped you in your portrayal of Wayne the most?
We worked with the each other finding the Australian version of Wayne. Making him a little ocker but also keeping that genuine, loving boy who is excited to be a wizard. I think that’s why it’s a credit to Matt. That these characters are so universal in any culture.
Last year you produced your own play Bromance and brought it to stages in Melbourne and Adelaide. Are you interested in continuing to show Bromance to more audiences? Or do you have other stories that you want to bring to the stage or screen in the future?
I am currently working on Bromance in the shadows and eventually it will get back up onto stages. However my focus is on Puffs and also a little youtube series i am getting together so watch this space!
Puffs is such a fun show and we’re sure you are having fun in rehearsals, can you share any anecdotes about what the process of bringing Puffs to the stage?
The laughs have been non-stop. Its very hard to keep a straight face during this show. I would say one of the best moments was early on in rehearsals and I felt the need to do a scene with no top on. The looks on the creatives’ faces was priceless.
Finally, what films or books can you recommend for those currently experiencing Wizarding World withdrawals?
Reread all the books. Rewatch all the movies and research all the fan made stuff you can! Get amongst it!
Puffs is on at Alex Theatre in St Kilda until 8 July. Evening shows are recommended for ages 15 and up due to language use and some sexual references. Matinees on Saturdays and Sundays are family friendly version of the show. Tickets, show times and accessibility information is available from the Puffs website.