Soul of Possum
Reviewed by Kerri-Lee Harding
Soul Of Possum is one of 14 newly commissioned works produced by YIRRAMBOI Festival.
The Soul of Possum is the debut play for young playwright and graduate of WAAPA in Aboriginal performance, Brodie Murray. Brodie’s father Ronnie Murray opened the evening sharing his own family personal historical stories and played the yidaki, it was a fitting way to start the show.
The play tells the story of colonisation in Victoria and in particular for that of the Wamba Wamba people living peacefully on their own lands and waterways. The Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers is where Brodie’s family is from so Brodie shared his family’s historical story.
The story is set back in the year 1853 on Wamba Wamba country and is centred around three young warriors, Wirramanda, Dindi and Warru who all while protecting their land knowing invaders are closing in on their traditional lands. The three young warriors fiercely go about their business protecting country from the colonial paddle steamer and the crew which has come upon the banks of the river.
Dindi and Warru are going through traditional men’s business and throughout the play there are many times brother Dindi does not trust Wirramanda and it takes some time throughout the play for Dindi to finally trust Wirramanda.
Playwright Brodie Murray shares with the audience his own personal family stories which have been handed down from his grandfather to his father and now to Brodie to tell the story of what went down on Wamba Wamba country back in 1853.
It’s up to the three young warriors to protect their people and country and they play a game with the colonialists whilst along the way being brought different challenges. They find themselves with less tucker on country and their fish traps are being depleted a sure sign other people are lurking around on their traditional lands.
One of the young warriors, Wirramanda is being sent spiritual messages which forewarn the tragedy of colonisation which is soon to be spread throughout Victoria and Australia. Wirramanda tries and tells the others; Dindi and Warru who don’t fully believe what he is predicting. Yet they soon become aware the enemy is close.
The three young warriors have their own personal dynamics happening sometimes being cheeky and often not agreeing with the situation they all find themselves in but they have no choice to continue to fight for their land.
The paddle steamer is docked along the Murray River and is closely guarded by crewmen desperate to invade the country they’re exploring and wishing to lay claim too. The crew of the steamer have their own dramas and hierarchy to contend with and the captain is determined to conquer Wamba Wamba country at any cost. The explorers bearing muscats and knives will go to any lengths possible to claim this land as their own. Yet the three young warriors go out of their way to not make this happen.
By day and night and seemingly playing a game of cat and mouse across the bush and close to the riverbanks the three young warriors outsmart the colonialists constantly and the warriors are to protect the land with their lives depending on it.
The Point of contact comes during the play and is confronting yet the three young warriors fight to the end and sent the white men running back to the paddle steamer and all hoping to flee as soon as possible.
This story is so important to share with wider audiences as it tells the true history of the brutal impact of colonisation in Victoria and also shows the negative impact of white settlement and the intergenerational trauma which has resulted due to colonisation.
Soul of Possum actors all deliver their best performance with the young warriors being played on stage by Wamba Wamba man Brodie Murray, Wakka Wakka and Gungulu man from Central Queensland Balaneba Toby and proud Tharawal and Yorta Yorta man Jyden Brailey.
This production Soul Of Possum is a must watch play if you want an insight into the brutality of the frontier wars in Australia. The play shows the audience what it was like for Victorian Aboriginal people to be living back in 1853 and back then it was tranquil and beautiful country with the lucious land, food a plenty with the crystal-clear waters of the Murray River providing a rich food source of local fish in abundance to eat.