The Arrival and Theatre Work

The Arrival

The script is available and published by Methuen Drama for Bloomsbury


"A 50-minute gem that fuses movement, music, poetry, circus skills and projected animations seamlessly to bring the experience of strangers arriving in strange lands to life." The Stage

Review: Tamasha, The Arrival, York Theatre Royal

THE Arrival is both a finale and a new venture for Tamasha.
On the one hand, departing co-founder and artistic director Kristine Landon-Smith is off to Australia to lecture in acting in Sydney; on the other, the London company has opened up new possibilities, a new route, by working with Circus Space for the first time.
Journeys to new beginnings are at the heart of The Arrival too. Under an hour in length, it nevertheless takes in huge change in that time as it charts the passage to Britain of assorted migrants.
Adapted from Shaun Tan’s graphic novel by playwright Sita Brahmachari in tandem with co-creator Landon-Smith – like Sita, a child of migrants – the play focuses on Dele (Charlie Folorunsho), who begins a new life in a smog-filled metropolis in a strange new country.
To do so, he leaves behind his son, seen climbing to the top of a pole, as Tamasha’s embracement of circus skills come to the fore. As a symbol for parting, it works both visually and emotionally too; indeed the circus throughout serves as a metaphor for a migrant’s own walking of the tight rope and need for courage.

The production also incorporates recordings of verbatim testimonials from migrants; animation by Yeast Culture; football-ballet choreography by Freddie Opoku-Addaie; and original music by Felix Cross.
Each element complements the next, all informing the narrative flow of the piece that successfully captures the bravery of migration and the alien strangeness of new sounds, customs and our British skies.
The Arrival is multi-national, multi-skilled theatre with an uplifting message of hope for a better life that no-one should be denied. UKIP should watch it.

The Arrival
Co-Created by Kristine-Landon Smith and Sita Brahmachari
Inspired by the graphic novel by Shaun Tan

Musing on Arrival Showcase  at The Royal Festival Hall

There comes a point when you work on a novel  or a piece of theatre, when it becomes public property.   

 When I went  along to the dress rehearsal of Arrival at The Royal Festival Hall I was frankly amazed to find that Kristine-Landon Smith, with the extraordinary company of Circus artists and actors and artistic team (who had been part of our development of this piece in collaboration with Circus Space) had managed, with only four days rehearsals in a noisy public  space, to expand the potential of this piece into a moment of universal storytelling that speaks to people across generations, language,cultures and backgrounds.

Obviously, as co-creator of this piece you may feel that this viewing is tinted with bias, and yet I return to the point that I made at the beginning of these musings that I believe that all artists reach and aspire to a moment of being able to view their own work through the eyes of others. In this moment the work no longer belongs to its creators.
In Co-creating Arrival inspired by Shaun Tan’s beautiful graphic novel, Kristine Landon –Smith and myself have always envisaged the piece as sitting well in ‘ transitional’ spaces such as stations and docks. It’s showing at the Royal Festival Hall was our first experience of trialling the work in this context and it allowed us to see how well the work is received when it is ‘found’ and ‘ stumbled across’. 

I was keen to observe the behaviour and reactions of the audience. In the three performances that I saw there were moments of audience interaction that were enlightening. A man of South Asian origin stood on The Hayward Walkway. He watched the silent stage pictures from behind the glass as the circus artists performed their extraordinary falls and climbs on their equipment.

As he stood quietly and watched, a flock of pigeons came to rest on the concrete grey wall beside him. I observed him watching through the images and sound scape of the Arrival that I was Privy to, while he watched in silence… and yet he stayed. It was a moment for me, in which the images of Tan’s beautiful graphic novel, the idea of the man who supports fellow migrants in the house in Finsbury Park, the grey concrete of the South Bank and the soft evening light melded together in a way that elements can only work when in a site specific piece.
When the storm at sea was over and the man on the walkway moved off, the pigeons took flight fanning out and upwards toward the grey London Sky. It was a moment that was ‘found’ by the man on the walkway as the showcasing of Arrival was ‘ found’ by so many people at The Royal Festival Hall this Spring.

I took my daughter aged 7 to the show and a group of her young friends. They sat entranced with the performance, just as entranced as the older generation who seemed to recognise ‘ The Man In the Hat’ in Arrival as themselves when they had arrived years before. I noticed too, that staff of the Royal Festival Hall, many of them newer migrants took time to sit and watch the show on several occasions.  The young audience I had brought along wanted to know, if they too could be given one of the paper birds, that the man in the hat offered his son. It was clear to me that the piece was beginning to speak to people of all ages on different levels.

 I was moved to see an old man who had exited a performance in The Royal Festival hall upstairs. The tears rolled down his cheeks as he stood with his grandchildren and watched a show that he had had not intended to see.
‘That was like it was for me’, he told the children with him. |Two small girls in smart coats (I imagine they were his  granddaughters. One of them took his hand, to comfort him.)

On the final performance I saw, the theatre show upstairs, consisting of a diverse cross –generational audience came out of their show twenty minutes late, meaning that they stumbled across Arrival in mid-flight.
This audience of several hundreds stayed and watched. A little boy whose parents were clearly involved in the production upstairs had seen the showcase several times.  ‘Can we stay till the end Mum?’ He begged ‘Just to see the storm at sea?’

His mum sighed and nodded and stood next to me with her son of around ten years old.
The Showcase of Arrival at the South Bank took place in the same week as  Anders Breivik was giving his deeply disturbing testimony in the Norwegian courts. I have family in Norway and I know how deeply the Norwegian people would like the opportunity to have a story of unity in their midst contradicting the gross distortion of Breivik’s views.  It made me think that the placing of Arrival on Oslo harbour this week might have brought an alternative solidarity of compassion about the migrant experience.  What is so moving about Tan’s graphic novel is that it touches to the core of the experience of the migrant, and this story is public property.     

As the show in The foyer above emptied, the diverse audience made journeys up and down in the lift (which became an intregral part of the set) descending through the flocks of paper birds, making their own journeys of leaving and Arrival.

 23rd April 2012

Here is an update of 'The  Arrival' in video form. I hope that it gives you a taster of what is to come in 2013

The Arrival  (2011 - 2013)

Photos by Anna Ngugen

Inspired by the novel by Shaun Tan
Produced by Tamasha Theatre Company in collaboration with Circus Space
Co-Created by Sita Brahmachari and Kristine-Landon Smith
Directed by Kristine Landon Smith, Scripted by Sita Brahmachari

Shaun Tan is a storyteller who has that rare gift of appealing to children and adults alike.  Arrivals tells the story of one man and every man, woman or child who has ever left their homeland to start life anew in another country whether through economic circumstance, war or  natural disaster. It's a story that is close to my heart as my own father Dr. Amal Krishna Brahmachari died in 2008 and he arrived in England from Kolkata in 1959 after a long journey on a ship much like the Arrivals in Tan's graphic novel. Like Obi in our production my father always kept close contacts with others who understood the migrant experience.

Myself and Kristine-Landon Smith have worked together for the last two years in a series of workshops and Research and Development collaborations with Circus Space to develop The Arrivals  - to be produced by Tamasha in the The Olympic year 2012. The production aims to capture the epic potency of Tan's story through a multi-lingual poetic text, verbatim stories, choreography, music, pictures and the magical flights and falls of circus artists.

Here is a small excerpt from the script.

Memories of the moment of Arrival...

"Mists of Memory, fog. What did they call it? Smog. Fog so dense I felt as if I was falling through the clouds. Then through the rain-mist I saw it for the first time, just like in 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 bring my wife and son here." 

Previous Writing Commissions for Theatre include

Lyrical MC (2008)


Tamasha Theatre Company.
Written by Sita Brahmachari
Directed by Kristine Landon-Smith

Sita Brahmachari's poetic new play skillfully fuses verbatim stories, scenes and characters from the classrooms and corridors of Britain's secondary schools. As we are drawn into their private worlds, a revealing subtext of allegiances and rivalries soon emerge. Lyrical MC is a rhythmic, multilingual production which mixes an audio soundtrack with a fast moving performance style.
Performed by young actors from REACT.

London Tour:
Oval House....Soho Theatre....Unicorn Theatre... Half  Moon Young People's Theatre


"An Inner City Under Milk Wood"
John Rettallack (Director of The Company of Angels)

"Brahmachari has done an excellent job of collating conversations of the youths she worked with whilst avoiding making it patronising and not compromising the artistic integrity of the piece. Some great stories and some brilliant insights into the communication failures government and education are having with today’s diverse classrooms." Alan Taylor for EXTRA! EXTRA!

London International Festival of London peformed at the OXO TowerWritten and performed by Sita Brahmachari

"Each generation needs to hear the voices of its young - in turns angry, alien, hopeful, despairing, irreverent & respectful. Today's London inner-city young, as perhaps never before, negotiate their blooming lives through over 500 languages. Sita Brahmachari's Lyrical MC opens our senses to a new London emerging from some of the murkier hearts of the city. In so doing, it also affirms the true value of multiculturalism: gaining a public voice. Though many now be born in Dari or Latvian or Mandarin, it is when the 'mother-tongue' is valued that the child of new migrants can soar in English. To deny this public space for other sounds & sensibilities in English is to deny emergent Englishness." Jatinder Verma – Artistic Director – Tara Arts

This is a terrific piece of theatre, utterly absorbing – poetic without being prissy vibrant and moving. The performers were completely absorbed by what they were partaking in, as was the audience. I hope a recording can be made and the work will continue." Cicely Herbert, Poet and Co-founder of ‘Poems on The Underground’

Walk Along A River With Me (2004)
London International Festival of Theatre.A multi- media performance poem
OXO Tower, London.
Written by Sita Brahmachari
Performed by Sita Brahmachari and Dancer Susmita Banerjee

Maps at Midnight (2002 - 2003)

Created by Sita Brahmachari. Designed by Sue Mayes
Royal Shakespeare Company British and American Tour

To accompany the RSC production of Midnight's Children I was comissioned to create a writing installation. Wherever the production toured I held creative writing workshops to explore people's memories of partition and Indian Independence. Over eight thousand submissions were collected along with photos and objects. The Installation included diverse storytelling from Salman Rushdie, to my own family, to elder's groups in the East End of London.

The work was featured in BBC Radio 4's Womens' Hour and is available to listen to on archive under RSC Maps at Midnight, and in the Times Educational Supplement.

Maps at Midnight toured throughout the UK and to Ann Arbor, Detroit and The Apollo Theatre NYC