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/


  1. I have the enormous pleasure of being Sita's editor and was delighted when she invited me to see The Arrival on Saturday (it menat I'd finally get to see Sita in theatre action!). The set (particularly the migrating birds) and the depth of the space immediately wowed me before the play even begin. The physicality the circus performers brought to the story was incredible - re-enacting the intensity of a ship in a storm particularly stood out for me. It was a spectacular production, so thoughtful, slick and intriguing. I did find myself wanting to know more about the African man we see arriving into Britain - what happened between his arrival and his death? Hopefully we will follow his personal journey in greater detail next year when the performance is shown again. The sutdents at Circus Space all pulled off sterling performaces - their strength and grace made for a unique and captivating interpretation of this brilliant book. Well done to everyone involved!

  2. Sophie Gorell Barnes13 July 2011 at 08:42

    My companion and I thought this show was very beautiful and perfectly captured the tone of the graphic novel. From the beginning the opaque light of the high-ceilinged studio, the flock of cascading paper birds and the soft, sure-footed fall of the performers took you to another world - a dreamy world of hope, possibility, adversity, disappointment, tragedy and then back to hope again. The music was most affecting and the acrobatics mesmerising. Sometimes it was hard to hear all the actors clearly, but their faces were so skillfully painted with emotion that not much was lost. From the groundwork with the bicycle or backflips to the high wire work with poles filling the space between the troupe created something magical. Director, writer, composer and artistes were in perfect balance. Altogether we were lucky to have been taken on such a moving and a beautiful journey.

  3. What a beautiful show, very skillfully and subtley crafted.The astonishing circus skills were wonderfully interwoven with the moving dialogue and really added to the story. For me not being able to understand the different languages of the migrants helped me gain a sense of their dislocation... My teenage boys thought it was pretty good too!