Spare Parts Puppet Theatre brings to the stage an endearing and somewhat melancholy production based on homegrown graphic novelist Shaun Tan’s book of the same name.
The Arrival tells the tale of Aki, a man who leaves his home country for a foreign and alien land. His reasons are open to interpretation; war, poverty, hope for a better life. The place he arrives at could be anywhere in the universe, limited only by imagination.
Through movement and mime the narrative subtly unfolds against an emotive soundtrack; the projection of Tan’s images providing bountiful, timeless settings in sepia tones. Without the need for dialogue the ensemble eloquently illustrates the highs and lows of a ‘new arrival’s journey’, how barriers are made and broken and happiness found in the hearts of those who are willing to open them to strangers.
The Arrival is playing over the July School Holiday with two matinee performances each day at 10am and 1pm. There are also two extra shows at 6.30pm on the 5 and 14 July for those who prefer a later afternoon time slot.
Fifty minutes is the perfect duration for a school-aged child’s attention span and during some sessions, a Q&A with the actors and puppeteers is a great way to get children engaged, helping them understand and process the sentiments within the storyline.
Going along to this show is a wonderful family experience and a great way of introducing different styles of theatre to creative young minds. They will particularly enjoy the interaction between the immigrant and the peculiar puppets, and the clever use of the set to add multiple layers.
The most charming element of The Arrival is its ability to open up an avenue to talk to children about immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and the difference between those who choose to take that path and those that are forced to leave their homeland for another place. Understanding and compassion is the key to a harmonious society and education is paramount. This is a beautiful doorway into the conversation; a moving piece of theatre to be enjoyed by all age groups, from the young to the young at heart.
The Arrival plays at the Dolphin Theatre at the University of Western Australia until 15 July.
Images from top: Rebecca Mansell; Tabetha Beggs