The Arrival is a heart-warming adaptation of Shaun Tan
- Gareth K Vile
- 9 October 2018
A positive tale of migration for younger audiences
Solar Bear's adaptation of Shaun Tan's graphic novel about the challenges of migration uses a clear physical theatre vocabulary to celebrate the human capacity for kindness and flexibility.
Following one man's arrival in a strange city, The Arrival limits the spoken word to interludes that comment on the history of migration through short episodes from the lives of those who have moved either to or from Scotland, placing the longer narrative in a broad context. Determinedly optimistic, with the challenge of alien languages and customs overcome through the help of the local people and the protagonist's positive attitude, Jonathan Lloyd's direction is disarmingly gentle and, with the help of movement director Ramesh Mayyappen, finds a gestural language that reflects Tan's picture book sepia-tinted style.
The ensemble cast make superb use of the suggestive scenography, emphasising a clarity over expression and presenting the interludes' vignettes with wit and compassion: the measured rhythm of the story prevents the long sequences of wordless performance from becoming confusing, and the puppetry helps to emphasise the protagonist's alienation and, through a balloon-based postal service, representation the scope and scale of the migrant experience.
While the story fails to grapple with difficult questions of integration, prejudice or exclusion, it is an overwhelmingly positive production, that makes strong use of music to build a mysterious and comforting atmosphere. Perhaps more geared towards younger audiences, it opens up the power of a theatre beyond words that is emotive, sensitive, playful and kind.