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  • Writer's pictureViolet Mackintosh


The Bush Theatre

Not sure what to do with your weekend? The Arrival is at the Bush Theatre for three more performances only and there are still tickets left.

(tonight, tomorrow – matinee and evening)

RUN - Ends 18th January

Starring - Scott Karim and Irfan Shamji

Director/writer - Bijan Sheibani

Run time - 70 minutes (no interval)

(Photo :

The Violet Curtain


"I’ve spent so much of my life wondering…passing people on the street… and now, yeah… you’re here"


Bijan Sheibani's playwriting debut is an intense and intriguing seventy minutes. We witness the reunion of two Iranian brothers after twenty years apart. Tom (Scott Karim), a confident and athletic computer designer, was given away by his parents who then went on to have a two more children. He desperately wants to integrate himself into the lives of his real parents and two siblings. Samad (Irfan Shamji), his brother, is very different to Tom because he gained a scholarship to a private school and studied English at Cambridge. At first, Samad is keen to develop a relationship with Tom but becomes overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation.

The play explores both the joys and burdens of a fraternal bond – nature versus nurture. The two brothers are so distant in their attitudes to life, their fitness and even their way of tying shoelaces. In their first meeting, Tom desperately clutches onto how they might be similar, such as that their wounds might take the same time to heal or that their pain thresholds are the same.

We are never explicitly told the backstory and subsequent reasons for Tom’s adoption. The questions about their childhood are the scenery behind each line, movement and silence in this play. The family history is drip fed to us throughout and never becomes crystal clear, adding yet another layer of mystery to this baffling piece. This secrecy is the only element keeping the stakes high, the two actors blindly search for a climax, which is never reached. In other words - nothing really occurs. The brothers become close, they drift apart, and then they meet again and there is not a conclusive ending. The enigma of the past is what keeps the audience invested in the story and when it appears that this will never be revealed we lose our grip on the plot.

The set is sparse and minimal – a plain revolving circle on which the brothers present their two worlds with great effect. The props are carefully chosen, drinks are mimed but there are two massive bikes and various bits of clothing. In one scene, the brothers start to imitate one another while getting dressed for Samad’s wedding. This feels pointedly forced as they attempt to ignore the years apart spent with different people, learning different things and dreaming different dreams. The dialogue is broken up by exquisite dance scenes and these are arguably stronger than the acting itself. They are mesmerising - with overpowering lighting and music which perfectly encapsulate the tension, so much so that it feels like there are more than two actors.

I have mixed feelings about this one – I would recommend it (but only just). There are moments of pure genius surrounded by ages wondering how many times they had to rehearse riding a bike around the stage! The seventy minutes are funny and poignant and makes you question your own relationships. It was beautifully crafted and yet underwhelming.


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