Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Based on the book by Shaun Tan
Directed by Philip Mitchell
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre
The Street Theatre to 30 September

Reviewed by Len Power 27 September 2017

Shaun Tan’s wordless ‘graphic’ novel, ‘The Arrival’, was based on stories from his friends, historical narratives and also his own father who immigrated to Australia from Malaysia in the early 1960s.

The story has a timeless feeling about it as we follow the experiences of Aki, a migrant who leaves his wife and family to travel overseas to a foreign country with the goal to provide a better life for them all eventually.  We follow his interaction with people and their strange customs.  Life is hard but he finds work, earns money, makes new friends and builds for the future.

This is a startlingly good theatre version of Tan’s novel.  Philip Mitchell’s production utilizes projections, puppets, light and sound to capture the dreamlike, timeless atmosphere of this compelling story.

Ellis Pearson as Aki
As Aki, Ellis Pearson beautifully creates a likeable and moving character without the benefit of words.  The other cast members, Alicia Osyka, Adrienne Patterson and Shirley van Sanden give nicely realized portrayals of people Aki interacts with.

This show makes clever use of projections especially when a sense of movement is required.  There are imaginative touches throughout the show.  Even the changing doors on the set are interesting.  The puppets are delightful and the actors show great skill working with them.  The paper bird suddenly taking wing was especially magical.

Shirley van Sanden
The lighting designed by Graham Waine and the sound by Jiri Zmitko complement the action on stage perfectly.

This show might be aimed at children but its themes and production will appeal just as much to adults.  At the opening performance, even very young children were clearly captivated by this show from start to finish.

Photos by Rebecca Mansell

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s new ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.