Actions speak louder than words in Bijan Sheibani’s (The Barbershop Chronicles) sombre sibling reunion – ★★★
Long lost brother Tom strolls back into Samad’s life, but the impact comes a fair bit later into Sheibani’s debut play, The Arrival. While its staging is rich and flowing – through Oliver Fenwick’s lighting and Aline David’s choreography – its narrative about reuniting a family is slow to develop.
The Arrival is described as a play involving sacrifice, but its exploration of how to welcome a relative back into a family – and to what extent – is far more apparent, interesting and devastating. Scott Karim stands out as a confident and proactive Tom, but only because Irfan Shamji plays Samad with a curious awkwardness and timidity. They are polarised as characters and – for the most part – in their position in the auditorium, staring at each other at opposite ends of the room, both on the revolving set, and off it.
Away from each other, we see Tom’s contempt at his isolation, and Samad massaging his forehead as he tries to makes sense of his brother’s return. They move clockwise and anti-clockwise, alternating when a new idea occurs to them.
Such is the expressive nature of David’s movement direction that it tells us more about the brothers’ feelings than the dialogue, which hurriedly tries to detail a family make-up in such a short period of time (the overall duration of the play being a fleeting 70 minutes). The characters have the advantage of years of discussion, but for a theatre audience, it is far more convoluted and disengaging.
For what its worth, The Arrival offers an exploration of some interesting and stark contrasts, but smooth choreography against a stagnant narrative is both its best and worst one.
The Arrival is now playing at the Bush Theatre until 18 January.
Production Images: Marc Brenner.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch The Arrival for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.