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
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.
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
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