Theatre review: Possum Magic, Alexander Theatre

A beloved children's book was theatrically transformed into a magical production.
Possum Magic. Two actors in khaki style uniforms turn axles with a wheel on one side, while between them two white female actors are dressed as possums and are being transported. Behind the actors is a tree and a map of Australia on the back wall.

Mem Fox’s cherished children’s tale, Possum Magic, has been expertly adapted for the stage by Monkey Baa Theatre in a delightful rendition that captivated both young and old audiences. The production brought to life the journey of Grandma Poss and Hush as they embarked on a quest through Australia’s capital cities to discover the secret to make Hush visible again – including a visit to an arthouse theatre in Melbourne and a kebab stall in Sydney. 

At the heart of the play lies the essence of magic, conjuring the whimsical charm of Fox’s story through original music, dramatic lighting design, and the clever use of props and illusions. Both leads were expressive in their movements, effectively conveying the characters’ emotions and Hush’s “invisibility”.

The supporting cast members earned the most laughs with hilarious caricatures and slapstick comedy. While the kids revelled in the exaggerated antics of the actors, adults were treated to clever wordplay and subtle humour throughout. 

A standout feature of the production was its seamless integration of traditional painted sets with digital screens and effects. The handcrafted aesthetic evoked a sense of nostalgia reminiscent of classical children’s theatre, while the digital design elevated the production, allowing for dynamic scene transitions and immersive visual storytelling – depicting the vast Australian landscape, magical spells and the light of the moon. 

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Monkey Baa Theatre has set the bar for children’s theatre exceptionally high with its interpretation of this Australian classic, bringing Mem Fox’s beloved tale to the stage in a way that was both faithful to the original story and uniquely theatrical. Intertwining magic, physical theatre, humour and innovative stagecraft created an enchanting and heart-warming experience that left audiences spellbound long after curtains close – and pining for delicious “people food”!

Possum Magic by Mem Fox and Julia Vivas
adapted by Monkey Baa Theatre Company
and Eva Di Cesare and Sandie Eldridge

Possum Magic was performed 5-7 April 2024 in Melbourne and 12-13 April in Geelong.

Mia-Francesca Jones is a writer and researcher living on Dja Dja Wurrung Country. Her work has been shortlisted for the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize, The Rachel Funari Prize, the Overland VU Short Story Prize and longlisted for the Richell Prize by Hachette Australia. She has worked in various arts roles for the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, the Emerging Writers’ Festival, Castlemaine Art Museum, and is a former co-editor of the Australian Audio Guide. She is currently completing a PhD in literary ecocriticism.