Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A week that flew past - The Arrival

Tamasha and Circus Space present  The Arrival. A second year degree show at Circus Space.

Sita Brahmachari - Diary of a week of Flying 

Wednesday July 6th 2011

Family outing to see The Arrival at Circus Space last night.

The moment of leaving the homeland (Photograph by Barry Lewis)

We took the overland into Old Street and I was able to show everyone the derelict house in Finsbury Park that I've always imagined that Obi in The Arrival (on the left in the photo) bought in the sixties and gradually renovated to become a refuge for new arrivals in Britain. This morning at breakfast the children were still talking about the show. My youngest daughter (aged six) asked  me if, when I wrote the story, I was thinking of Granddad. Children always amaze me with their insights.

My eldest daughter said it's the kind of theatre people her age want to see. My son said 'yeah, actually Mum it was really good!' Praise indeed! They're going back to see it with some of their mates on Saturday. They loved the fact that the work was an ensemble melding images, text, circus art, choreography, music and acting. It's been a privelege to see this piece brought to life by the energy and skill of so many wonderful artists and actors.

Thursday 7th July 2011

The final moments of The Arrival - The gift of flight
(photograph by Barry Lewis)

Grahame Barker-Smith author of FArTHER (Winner of the Kate Greenaway award for children's literature) come along to the show. This is what he said about the work...

"The words, though spare, were beautifully weighted and apt. This was a feeling that ran through the whole piece, nothing overpowered, not the projection or the music, nor the words or the performers evidently advanced acrobatic skills. The acting too was measured and focused, but all together it expressed something that built from beginning to finish, like the making of an edifice, until what you had was something that satisfied and lingered in the mind. The experience of being an immigrant - though not my experience - was contactable somewhere inside me through the power of this art. It evoked a sort of unbidden empathy. Only something made and performed with heart, intellect and energy can do that."

Louise Millar who is to publish her amazing novel 'Playdate' (Macmillan) next year also came along with me. We were both remembering when we set up our writing group to share our work, with no real thought that either of us could realise our dreams to be published.

Friday 8th July

My father Dr Amal Krishna Brahmachari. (1931 - 2008 holding the pidgeons in Trafalgar Square)
Arrived 1959 off the ship from India, with other doctors  to work in the then new National Health Service.

Didn't  go to the show because my son was performing at his school fundraiser and I had to chop vegetables for the BBQ! He played in a band and solo and he seemed to have his very own fan club (other than his Mum) cheering him on. There were so many talented young people performing their work. It made me think of the bravery of performers and artists who give something from very deep in themselves to their work. At some level we all draw on our own experiences in expressing an artistic vision.

This is a particular skill that Kristine Landon-Smith has as a director, to bring the culture, background, language, history and skill of the individual artist to the texture of their work. In the case of The Arrival a company of international multi-lingual circus artists and actors are bringing themselves and their extraordinary art of flying and falling to a narrative about the eternally human story of migration. Kristine and I wanted the piece to explore, as Tan's novel does, how this city and so many countries in the world are built through the imagination and work of generations of migrants. Obi, the old man in The Arrival is at the end of his life but he looks through memory's porthal and remembers the moment of Arrival as if it was yesterday...

"Mists of memory, fog, what did they call it? Smog, fog... so dense I felt as if I was falling through clouds. Then through the rain mist I saw it for the first time, just like in a story book, text book, all glittering, the river flowing through the centre, and I think yes, this is my dream to make a home in this country... to bring my wife and son here.."

Saturday 9th July

Who doesn't dream of flying?
Photography by Barry Lewis

My daughter and friends made it to the show... just! (leaving three seconds to spare!) having got carried away in the vintage clothes shops in Camden Town!

I want to thank all the friends and colleagues who came along. There's nothing like having the people who've shared part of your history and helped you on your way, come and see the artistic work you're engaged in.

Some friends came along with their children. At the moment when Kat, the trapeze artist flew, I watched the children's faces.... they were literally lit up with the exhilaration of  live flight.  It's wonderful to think that we might be able to create a show that appeals across age ranges.

My human rights activist friend Simon (name check Simon in Artichoke Hearts) said the storm at sea was like watching a Fellini film.

Sunday 10th July

Photograph by Barry Lewis "Suspended between worlds"

Took my youngest to Queen's Wood because she wanted to fly on the swing suspended from the great oaks. It's too late for me (even though, since working on this show I have taken to getting on this swing when out on my morning run, if there is no one else around!) Watching her arch her back and glide through the air looking up through the leafy canopy the thought occurred to me that one day we may have a daughter run away to the circus!

Today I've been thinking about honing the narrative, pulling through threads of the storyline and exploring what's next in developing this piece into the full blown show along with the wonderful collaborative artistic team we are building... and all of us inspired by Shaun Tan's wonderful graphic novel.

Kristine- Landon Smith - Director

Sita Brahmachari - Script
Adam Wiltshire - Designer
Felix Cross - Composer
Mike Furness - Sound Designer
Rita Ray - Sound Artist
Barry Lewis - Projection Designer
LX Designer - Andy Purves
Image Consultant - Gerry Pilgrim

With thanks to Ice and Fire (A company exploring Human Rights Stories Through Perfomance) for giving  us access to Verbatim stories of contemporary refugees and economic migrants. Some of these stories have been integrated into The Arrival . iceandfire.co.uk/

Watch out for Tamasha Theatre Company and Circus Space staging of the full production of The Arrival in 2012 -The Olympic Year. (Co-created by Kristine-Landon Smith and Sita Brahmachari incorporating the work of a host of extraordinary artists.) For updates look up: www.tamasha.org.uk/

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Inspirations for Jasmine Skies

I probably have the tiniest writing room in the world. But it's a room of my own! I call it my eyerie; it's where I nest to write my books. There's not much space in here for anything else except me, my chair and computer but I always keep a few objects or photos by my desk to inspire me....

For Artichoke Hearts I had a family photo album, a holey stone and (when they were in season) an artichoke! As my creative writing teacher says in Artichoke Hearts when you are writing you've got to 'let the random in!'

For The Arrival I simply had the photo of my Dad that I've posted in the blog below, and a mind full of wonderful memories.

While writing Jasmine Skies (which is to be published by Macmillan in April 2012) I have a little Jasmine plant that smells gorgeous, and photos I took last year when I went to a cousin's wedding in Kolkata. This beautiful carved door, and what happens behind it is part of Mira's story in Jasmine Skies.  I'll post some more photos from time to time.

In memory of Dad - The Arrivals at Circus Space

It's so exciting to see the vision of Kristine-Landon Smith and myself really take flight in this second year show at Circus Space. The piece is a co-production between Tamasha Theatre Company and Circus Space. For me the Arrivals is a very personal story. So much negative press is given to migrants of many kinds, and yet people do not uproot themselves from their homelands easily... as one man says... 'The history of humanity is the history of migration'. The text of Arrivals is formed from a combination of a poetic text I have written, inspired by Shaun Tan's extraordinary graphic novel, and verbatim texts (recorded and donated by the company Ice and Fire) charting the experience of refugees and ecomic migrants.

My father, Dr. Amal Krishna Brahmachari was a doctor. He came to this country as did many in the late 1950's from the 'Motherland' countries to help found the then new National Health Service. Those doctors he arrived with on the long ship journey from India are now retiring. In creating the narrative for Arrivals  I wanted to explore the debt this country owes to its migrant population. Sadly, my father had an unsuccessful heart operation in 2008 from which he died. I was so moved to see the respect that his Polish Consultant showed him at the end of his life.. saying 'I take my hat off to you, who paved the way.' It reminded me of the man in the hat in Shaun Tan's Arrival.

My father was always compassionate to new 'Arrivals.' I think he never forgot what it was like to leave his homeland behind and to try to reinvent himself in another country, language and culture. The character of Obi in our production of Arrivals sees and hears stories of new Arrivals, their trials and tribulations, and makes them welcome in his house in Finsbury Park. At the end of his life they recognise his kindness and courage.

I am looking forward to taking my whole family along to Circus Space tonight and I will explain to my children how their Granddad was an inspiration in this work performed by actors and circus artists. He often used to say that when he was making the long passage to Britain by ship that he felt that his life would always be suspended between worlds. It has been moving to see how Kristine Landon-Smith has worked with Circus Artists to stage this narrative; capturing the emotional landscape of flight, falling and suspension of the migrant experience so closely.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Check out Photos From Tamasha's Rehearsals for The Arrivals

Next week sees the showcasing of The Second Year Degree Show at Circus Space. As my son said, that must be the most awesome degree in the world! This is the third phase of a Research and Development process with Circus Space to investigate potential collaborations between theatre and circus artists. Tamasha's final production will be staged in The Olympic Year 2012. Watching Circus artists fly, fall and do generally super human feats, can have a worrying effect on you! Whilst going on my morning run through the woods I found myself compelled to jump onto a swing suspended from a great oak. Now I've been tempted before...but no one was around and well....let's just say I was inspired!  Tamasha Theatre Company's director Kristine Landon-Smith and myself and the multi-media creative team are striving to create a show in which a poetic text, image, beautiful epic music, theatre, choreography and circus art  intertwine. The sepier world of Tan's potent images seemed to come to life today, as the artists stepped into their costumes... 
Photos by Anna Ngugen