The 2010 Sydney Festival has afforded me many first experiences- and The Arrival is another- my first experience of New Zealand theatre AND the first theatre production I have seen at Carriageworks. In the past three weeks I have been experiencing a range of Children’s theatre- ranging from local Australian adaptations to large scale adaptations of foreign stories- now an adaptation of a graphic novel by Shaun Tan – “The Arrival”.

The premise of the story is very simple: A man leaves his wife and child insearch of safety and a new life in another country. Like a classic stranger in a strange land story, he experiences the difficulties, and the wonders of this new existance. He encounters people who tell him their story- stories of love and war- which help him find his place.

What is most impressive about this production is the performance which uses barely any dialogue (jibberish is the major dialect) and which introduces a completely other world to us- a world full of surprises and unexpected people (and animals). The performers use puppets, flags, movable sets, momentary costume changes to shift between character and time and space. The scale expands and contracts and we as the audience are lovingly guided through the terrain of this other world.

I have not read (seen/viewed) the book on which this is based- so I can’t tell you how it is inspired and adapted- but this is a beautifully detailed and inventive production which is delightful and sophisticated (especially if you have experienced the surprising and agonising exhaustion of trying to make a home in another country).

The joy is in the discovery of the scale of each moment as it unfolds and contracts and is very much worth the adventure… not sure if younger kids would be as captivated as I was- but I shoudl hope at least they would want a pet cone-eared rabbit creature or a snuffling hat eating dog.