The most famous fraternal relationships of mythology, Cain and Abel or Romulus and Remus, end with bloodshed. Bijan Sheibani’s The Arrival, a reunion between two siblings, featuring one who was adopted and one kept by their birth parents, unpicks the complexities of brotherly bonds from a more low-key, homely perspective.
Scott Karim’s Tom is the seemingly self-assured adopted man who attended the local comp and relishes the opportunity to reinstate himself in his brother’s life. Irfan Shamji’s Samad is a quieter soul who won a private school scholarship followed by a place at Cambridge. He initially acquiesces to Tom’s enthusiastic overtures, until his patience breaks and he cuts short the friendship.
As with Sheibani’s staging of Dance Nation at the Almeida, The Arrival is strongest in its non-verbal, choreographed moments (Sheibani working once again with regular collaborator Aline David). On and around Samal Blak’s set, a plain, circular revolving platform, the brothers chase, catch, dance and overtake each other.
In one section, they cycle around the small space on high-quality bikes or practise for a half-marathon, always with Samad looking less than enthusiastic. In other lyrical passages, their everyday movements – tying a shoelace, putting on a smart shirt – become direct echoes of each other.
The crucial problem is that the stakes remain so low throughout. It’s an appealingly tender look at male intimacy and connectivity, but lacks additional momentum or anything resembling a crisis point. What it does best is portray the web of power imbalances and competitiveness often underpinning so-called flourishing friendships.