Sunday, 6 May 2012

Shaun Tan's "The Arrival"

On Friday I went to see the theatre adaptation of multi-award winning Shaun Tan's graphic novel The Arrival. The story is about a man going to the "New World" to start a new life for his family, but as a foreigner everything is weird and wonderful and even somewhat scary. The strangeness of the new world is also strange to the audience so that the reader shares the "outsider" experience with the main character.

The book is a wondrously surreal fantasy trip in which the reader joins the main character in his journey as he is overwhelmed by the foreignness of his new environment. We share his experiences of slowly settling into the new country as an immigrant, making new friends (including a tadpole-like dog), hears the often sad stories of other immigrants and the reasons they fled their respective countries of origin, and preparing for the anticipated arrival of his wife and daughter, which he had to leave behind in his dangerous home country.

I think that as an expatriate that had experienced the strangeness of a new country before, the book especially resonated with me. But I'm confident that the weirdness of Tan's images can evoke the same feelings of "otherness" in even those that have not experienced a foreign country before.

The graphic novel was adapted for theatre by New Zealand's Red Leap Theatre troupe. The adaptation had won them numerous awards in New Zealand and now with their international tour I'm sure international awards are to follow for this spectacular stage production. They have definitely succeeded in bringing the magic of Tan's book into a 3D space that keeps the audience upright in their seeds with enthralment.


I highly recommend the book and if the opportunity to see the stage production arises, do not miss out. It is worth every dollar. It has definitely been a highlight of my year so far.

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