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March 12, 2010 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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The Arrival


The Arrival is, above all else, magic. Let me get that out of the way. It has moments of mind-blowing imagination. It is inspired. It is delightful. It is a constant, consistent working demonstration of all the power and magic that is contained within the theatre. It is largely sublime and a sumptuous spasm of spectacle. The design, direction and performances are all of an incredibly high standard, more than filling the clowny shoes of the International Festival. You really should go see it.

Now, I got that out of the way quickly, because as good as The Arrival is, it is far from perfect and I think the issues within the work are worthy of discussion and inspection. This is not because I want to construct some big long running backhanded compliment or complaint. This is just because it is very easily to be so gloriously dazzled by The Arrival that you can somewhat ignore some rather deeply rooted problems.

The Arrival tells the story of man who immigrates to a new land, leaving behind his daughter and wife, to look for work and his fortune. Upon arriving in this new land, he is swamped by new customs and new people. This is the story of his journey to adjust to life in a place largely alien to him. He also meets a little rat-dog-thing.

Which is adorable.

Based on a wordless graphic novel by Shaun Tan, adapted for the stage by Bucklame Auckland theatre company Red Leap, it carries several clear issues with its adaptation of the work. Moments are that are clear, logical and story-motivated in the original book become somewhat of non-sequiters in the performance. In a graphic novel, the setter of pace is the reader, each image being designed to be poured over to unveil multiple points of plot and pretense. When The Arrival attempts to replicate these moments the audience cannot help but feel lost. Which is a shame.

Because, above all else, The Arrival strives to be simple. That is as opposed to simplistic. Made with very much an eye towards children as an audience (never a bad thing), it makes these slips into story mess much more noticeable.

There is also a lot made of the dialogue being in a made-up gibberish. This makes the story wonderfully universal and makes, rather subtly, a secondary point about how little language we actually need to communicate stories and other things. Except that it doesn’t. But, at what seem to be deliberately engineered to be the most wallbanging of moments to break into English. This smacks of a condescension to the audience. Each time they break into English, one cannot help but feel it/read it as “Okay. You read to listen to story now?”

I may have loved The Arrival for its style much more than its substance. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing by any means. Something its alright for something to be good just because its pretty or cool or has a folding cardboard set. The Arrival was a treat feat rollicking tech fun time. Huzzah!

The Arrival
By Red Leap Theatre

At The Opera House,
11 – 14 March 2010

Part of the 2010 International Festival.

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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