As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Adapted from the graphic novel by the Perth artist and author Shaun Tan, Red Leap Theatre’s production of The Arrivalis like a beautiful picture book that comes to life.

Seeking a better life in a distant land of opportunity, a young man leaves his family and embarks on a journey full of some of the inevitable trials his passage will beget. Arriving in an unknown landscape he is filled with optimism and the thrill of the new. As he locates himself in a maze of new environments and emotions, it’s only natural that he wants to assimilate, yet patience and empathy from others is required.

His words as tumble about inside him like alphabet soup and nothing he says is making any sense; he is hungry but has to endure an obstacle course to find food; he is sleepy but where’s can he lay his head? Surreal animals, like the hybrid ones children draw with a pair of ears borrowed from a rabbit put on an eight-legged dog, come to life. Metaphors for community – newspapers, games, market places and games – offer a clear sense of the outsider tapping on the exterior of a new world.

The production is full of imagination and as we leafed through each scene the set unfolded like a pop-up book, taking familiar elements with it but introducing something new. This story is told with barely any words yet the flow of its imagery and physicality feel almost intuitive.

There is a sense of optimism in The Arrivaland, though some of the issues it is tackling are clearly politically potent, it serves as a reminder of the power of empathy and patience. It’s a beautiful discovery, empathy and along the way he befriends other more settled immigrants and benefits from their kindnesses. As his¬†experience aggregates like moss this strange place starts to feel more like home and his dream is within reach.

I wondered what the children in the audience would take with them. Maybe they thought some of the creatures are like ones they draw but, what I hoped, was that it might help them understand the importance of bravery, compassion and empathy – each great aspirations for all of us.

Review: Lola the Festival Blogger