On Sunday I took my sisters for a bit of an adventure. First stop was The Arrival. The Arrival is a pretty special show, I first saw it a few years ago at a festival and have loved it ever since.
The Arrival is based on a graphic novel by Shaun Tan and was adapted into theatre form by Red Leap in association with Auckland Festival’s, ‘Watch this Space.’ (The images above are taken from the book) To watch it is to delve into the pages of that book in such an honest, pure way that it feels surreal. You see, The Arrival in book form has no words. It’s purely visual which could be a challenge in some cases. Do you add words? Don’t you? Why? Why not? What Red Leap has created for the stage is therefore incredibly physical. The actors are more than people on stage, they are part of it as they use puppets and move set piece around. It’s fluid, and awe inspiring. The way the actors move on stage is incredible, my body definitely could not perform the gymnastic tricks that they maneuver. Folding, dripping, pouring themselves, lifting, flipping, spinning through space. It’s fantastical because it’s so superb.
It’s not just the cast however who pull together the show. Sure, they’re probably the most talented physical specimens I’ve ever seen on stage, but they also have a little help in the way of a sensational set and lighting design. It’s no surprise that John Verryt has won a Chapman Tripp for the set of this show. He has managed to truly pull the pages of Shaun Tan’s book to life. If you look at the book, you are pretty much looking at the show and considering how beautiful Shaun Tan’s work is, thats pretty impressive. Then there’s the props. Crazy animals which come to life on long poles in the hands of the actors, birds, mice, strange glowing orbs. The props don’t feel like props to look at. You forget that they’re separate from the actors as they become a single flowing unit. And for the lighting, it’s not so much about light, but darkness, shadow, my favourite. Imagine light streaming through fog, simulated by smoke, dark alley ways and street spaces, glowing interiors. It’s all that and more.
I’d almost forgotten about the sound, but that’s probably because it’s not a separate entity. You don’t notice the music because hey that’s a great song, you notice it only because it’s so right. It’s this crazy world that you don’t really understand, but you don’t need to. You just feel it, watch it, hear it. It’s a sensual experience.
As an actor, The Arrival is inspiring. It pulls together everything I’ve ever been taught in acting classes and workshops and shows how well it can really work. It shows how important the physical side of things is and how being strong could possibly be something I need to work on. It makes sense of all the little things.
I really have to take my hat off to Kate Parker, Julie Nolan, and everyone else involved in this show. It was beautiful, in the most sincere form of the word.
Sadly it was only showing for three days, but it’s a traveling show and if you ever hear that it’s coming near you go, really just run and don’t look back into the theatre. You won’t regret it.