The Poof Downstairs

The Poof Downstairs

By Jon Haynes

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

24th – 27th April 2013


Reviewed by Guy Frawley


I’m going to go out on a limb here and make the assumption that you can recall a similar situation in life. It was most likely at a dinner party or perhaps on some trip of sufficient distance, where you have been both engaged in conversation and stuck in the same place. Friend of a friend, your uncle, a colleagues partner…the specific individual isn’t really important here, it’s the story they tell that I want you to recall. Well, not so much the story itself, but the manner in which it was told. A rambling, time consuming tale that was waylaid throughout the course of its telling by numerous and varying elements of minutia. What seemed like a simple explanation in the beginning soon unravelled into a Byzantine maze of barely coherent babbling that quickly devolved from an interesting tale into a scattered and exhaustive retelling that left you both confused and wondering if the teller had ever considered a solid daily dosage of Ritalin.


Luckily this was not one of those situations.


The Poof Downstairs

It could have so easily been, but it wasn’t. Plot, set, costume, context…it’s all pretty much irrelevant to Brisbane Powerhouse’s current Studio Season run of Jon Haynes’s The Poof Downstairs. That’s because once you let go of expectation and preconception (wait…was that the fourth wall that just crashed down behind me? No my mistake it’s still very much in place), and allow yourself to just go with the flow of the piece, you may just find yourself enjoying this show in all its discombobulated and meanderingly awkward brilliance.


As a one-man show, this all rests upon Haynes’s shoulders. As the playwright, director and the individual whose life has apparently, at least partially, inspired these tales the responsibility is multiplied even more so and on the shoulders of many others this production would stumble and fail. But here it works.


The constant jumping between characters (Jon, a banker who wishes for a more bohemian existence, the heads of the family-from-hell who live upstairs, a bee, the pre-WWII German Kaiser, mother, father…look I’m not going to list them all, you see my point, convoluted, yes?) is as entertaining as it is ultimately confusing but it also left me wishing I’d had the chance to see Haynes at The Powerhouse in The Importance of Being Ernst as I can imagine him being a fabulous character actor.


A random thought while writing this, “Gosh I’d love to see him on the same stage as Bryan Probets, in a Shakespearean comedy directed by David Berthold” 


I’m not so sure I’d say this of ‘Jon’ the character, but I would relish the opportunity to be stuck next to Jon the writer at a dinner party or on a transcontinental flight. The script crackles with sharp wit and intelligent humour. It’s simple to find the easy laughs in the puerile comedy that peppers this piece, but in doing this you run the risk of missing the fabulous one-liners the Jon spits out dart-like. I have some favourites I’d love to share but I’ll keep mum in the hope that you go to see this show before it closes on Saturday.


Leave your expectations at the door and just go with it. Once you’re out the other end please let me know what you think, I’d very interested to hear some other opinions on this.



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