The Arrival is a picture book by Shaun Tan that follows the journey of a man who leaves his home and family to go to a new land, for reasons unknown to the reader. When he arrives he is desperate to communicate with the people and the creatures he meets, attempting to make sense of his new world. The beauty of the book is that it is made entirely of sketched sepia pictures and can therefore be read by anybody.
The Nunah Theatre Company has taken The Arrival to the stage with their very talented four-person cast. Their brilliant interpretation of Tan’s masterpiece captured the exact atmosphere of the book by mimicking the colours of Tan’s sketches. Wearing brown and cream coloured clothing, the company recreated the silent story using music and dance.
Well-choreographed sequences represented the emotions of the book. One of the most effective ways that the actors used their bodies was with slow-motion, particularly when the protagonist boarded a boat. He and the other passengers all walked slowly for a long period of time, emphasising the boldness and courageousness of the man’s decision.
The performance also used silent film effectively. An example of this was when the husband and wife acted out a romantic dance scene, involving a white sheet, just before he is about to leave. They then held the sheet taught, and at the back of the stage, as the lights dimmed, happy family memories were projected on to it from a projector. Presented with past and present simultaneously, the audience encounter a feeling of timelessness.
Interestingly, the performance varied greatly from the plot of the original story, with the book involved many more characters. The whole act was only one hour long and the stories of the people who the protagonist meets along his journey could have been added to lengthen and deepen the already high quality performance.