Theatre – Possum Magic
Venue: Monkey Baa Theatre, Darling Harbour
Written By: Mem Fox (adapted by Eva di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge)
Directed By: Sandra Eldridge
The brilliant Monkey Baa, award-winning company for young theatregoers, celebrated the launching of its brand-new production of the iconic Possum Magic on Saturday, March 30. Following the premiere, the show will embark on a national tour bringing the same opportunities for theatrical experiences to rural and regional audiences as are available to the urban young.
The theme of this well-loved children’s classic, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas, first published in 1983, is one well suited to Monkey Baa’s mission of challenging and inspiring the young. Little Hush, the central character of this story, and engagingly interpreted by Sarah Greenwood, is protected from the wild bush by a spell of invisibility cast by Grandma Poss (an endearing Claudette Clarke) but eventually embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
By the light of a very otherworldly moon – possums are nocturnal creatures – and with the assistance of two star-sprinkled beings (Alex Packard and Michael Yore) Hush is delighted by Poss’s bush magic. Wombats are turned blue, kookaburras pink and monstrous emus are shrunk to pint-sized birds. At first, Hush is made happy by her invisibility, conveyed through a deft change of costume from warm brown to cool grey, as it enhances her playful enjoyment of her world and shields her (with extra help) from its heat-sensing serpentine dangers.
When Hush chooses to leave the edenic world of childhood, Poss is happy to oblige with a spell to render her visible. It is not so simple, but the answer is eventually found in the eating of “people” food, and the meshing with, and exploration of, the world of experience this consumption implies. Hush and Poss embark on an around Australia trip (the mystic moon in this case becomes a handy road map), the cheerful Poss encouraging Hush to noisily chew on the various offerings of the Australian way of life. A very large vegemite sandwich (in Darwin), a pav (in Brisbane) and finally, a lamington (in Tasmania) restore tail, body and head in turn to the ever winsome Hush.
The good timing and adroitness of the men-of-all-work (Packard and Yore) enhanced the visual and comic appeal of the pair’s Australian adventures. The clever and beautifully choreographed simulation of a bicycle ride, the grouchy moviegoers in Adelaide and the chitchat between the chefs over the pronunciation of “scones” (noticeably Flo’s pumpkin scones do not assist Hush in her search for recognition) contributed to the fun and fullness of the whole.
The clever artistic team, including production design (Emma Vine), composer and sound designer (Nate Edmondson), and magic and illusion designer (Adam Mada),
successfully translated the whimsical world of the story to the stage and captivated the young audience. It’s sure to be another dazzling success for Sandra Eldridge and Eva di Cesare.
A highlight of the premiere was the serving of a delicious afternoon tea of vegemite sandwiches, mini-pavs and lamingtons with (of course) healthy options, and hearing from Vivas that, in the initial draft of the story, Hush had been a mouse.
March 30, 2019. On national tour.