Bush Theatre Autumn 2019
A man who was adopted as a
child meets his birth family as an adult. He and his new younger brother
are at first excited and eager to connect.
But over time they sadly
discover they have less in common than they might have hoped and that
sustaining a friendship is harder work and more painful than is worth it.
two-character play is actually not about the perils or emotional fallout
of adoption. Its real insight lies in the way both men are forced to
experience emotions they don't have the words for, and how that inability
to express themselves, even to themselves, is crippling and frustrating.
The Arrival is also about
frustration of another sort. Because the men cannot say what they are
thinking and feeling, the audience is deprived of the sort of information
we tend to expect from characters in plays. And so The Arrival challenges
our expectations of what a playwright owes us.
Of course we have been here
before, with Harold Pinter, but Sheibani puts his own stamp on the play
that doesn't tell us everything. We experience The Arrival on two levels,
as a study in inability to communicate and as a lesson in how a
playwright's selective refusal to communicate can generate a paradoxically
satisfying frustration for us.
Sheibani recalls early Pinter
in other ways as well, by delivering what exposition he offers only as he
goes along – it takes a while for us to be able to piece together the
adoption backstory – and by appreciating the communicative power of
The printed text offers
detailed instructions on the differences between 'beats,' 'pauses,' 'long
pauses' and 'silences,' and we may sense more about the men's emotions
from what they can't say than from what they can.
Playwrights are not always
the best directors of their own work, but in this case we have a talented
and experienced director effectively bringing his theatrical instincts to
The play certainly offers
challenges and opportunities to the two actors, Scott Karim and Irfan
Shamji, which director Sheibani guides them to make the most of.
The Arrival makes demands of close attention on the audience, and rewards it with an engrossing and thought-provoking hour.
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Review - The Arrival - Bush Theatre 2019