IN BRIEF Haunting, raw drama of family estrangement and male communication lingers in the mind

Bijan Sheibani’s intense play about male relationships focuses on two brothers- one given up for adoption as a child, the other kept, when they meet again in adulthood. Set on a blank revolving blue disc of a stage, this 70-minute show strips the brothers’ encounters down, examining the fractured connections that still haunt them both and the changes they have to make to go on with their lives.

Between the scenes, the two circle and glower at each other, nicely suggesting underlying tensions and unexpressed emotions.

The audience starts out with very little information and quite gradually we build up certain impressions, rather like Tom building up his own half-forgotten picture of the family that left him behind.

The brothers’ reunion upsets a fragile status quo. Things that have long been buried are dug up again, again dealing with all the repressed guilt, powerlessness and anger about things not of their making.

Tom, the adopted brother is weighted with large and small questions, desperate to reclaim his family ties and make sense of it all, but his drive to move things on quickly grates with quieter, more moderate Sam, who favours a slower approach, not just for the sake of his parents.

There is a palpable desire for physical and mental connection, yet the closest they come to sustained physical contact is when they fight at Sam’s wedding. This is complex, messy stuff focusing on male role models and the pressure from both within and without about how men act and react.

Writer/Director Sheibani gives his work intrigue, accessibility and humanity. Both of these characters are hurting, but their resolutions seem very distant, and certainly not hinted at by the conclusion of this play.

Scott Karim carefully portrays Tom as driven, unsettled, positively glowing with repressed rage and resentment.

Irfan Shamji plays Sam as more cautious, slower, on the defensive. Both actors give committed and intense performances that do the material justice. Towards the end of the play, Tom’s quiet line resonated with me on the way home. “I just thought I’d found you…but I hadn’t”.

THE ARRIVAL plays The Bush Theatre until January 18th. Details and tickets here

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