30 April 2008

The Arrival

The Arrival
Spare Parts Thearte
30 April 2008
Fairfax Studio, the Arts Centre


Spare Parts Puppet Theatre began developing their adaptation of Sean Tan’s The Arrival at the same time as Tan was finishing his award-winning graphic novel of the same name. This parallel production is mesmerising and beautiful. The complexity of the book is simplified, but it stays true to Tan’s remarkable story about immigration.  

The emotions and confusion surrounding immigration resonate deeply when we live in a country where so many of us came from somewhere else. What makes this story so powerful is its universal emotional reach. The Arrival is not just about coming to a new strange land; it’s about being an outsider, learning to communicate and searching for friendship and acceptance.

Like the book, Spare Parts’ production communicates without words. Three puppeteers/performers work with the puppet characters. At first it feels strange to see blue, yellow and any colour after the blacks, whites, greys and sepias of Tan’s illustrations, but the colour brings a new level of characterisation, communication and interpretation to the incredible creatures.

The most unique and astonishing aspect of this production is Michael Barlow’s animation. Still and moving images are projected onto the white set. Tan’s still illustration is already so alive that even the thought of movement is superfluous. Barlow chose few images and simplified them to make them move. His animation evokes the mood, intensity and ultimate freedom of the book, and makes the movement feel fluid and natural. We see the dragon tails undulating though the city and the animated time passing flower is stunning.

The Arrival was developed for schools and school groups are the ones lucky enough to see it. As the reach of its emotion is so wide, it is disappointing that there weren’t public sessions, so that the many Shaun Tan fans, and lovers of theatre, could share this gorgeous work.
This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com


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