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ARRIVAL at London’s Royal Docks – this is theatre at its most creative

Headlining The Royal Dock’s Origin’s Festival last week was an immersive theatrical experience called ARRIVAL. Co-directed by Matthew Dunster (West End Director) and Jon Bausor (Paralympic Set Designer), the immersive promenade experience comprised a 90-minute walking tour around Silvertown in East London.

ArrivalArriving at the Britannia Village Green, in West Silvertown, on a dark and chilly Saturday evening, along with a few hundred people, I put on the headphones that were given to me and took my place on the green where I joined crowds of people watching the pre-show entertainment. This was a great start to the production. It was high energy, there was loud chart music playing and local youths were performing incredible pops and locks with breaking moves to cheers and whoops from the crowd. I had a feeling that what I was about to experience was special, and I was not wrong!.

Usually, when I’m told that I am to review a community-led piece of theatre I don’t have high expectations, I’m hoping for a fun night out, but don’t expect high production values – however, this show blew every expectation out of the water. It was epic on all levels; the technology used, the sheer number of performers taking part, the amount of coordination it must have taken to plan a safe route for hundreds of pedestrians walking through the streets of Silvertown listening to stories and music from headphones as they walked. The projections on fences and buildings, the living room re-purposed in the street, the plinths placed between parked cars, the choir outside the abandoned factory, the app development for augmented reality content, the drum players, the purposely built bridge that we used to cross the docks – it goes on and on and on.

This piece is a case study on how to engage a local community in art and give them the voice to tell their stories, in their way in a language that their families, friends, neighbours understand. This piece of theatre excited me in a way that very few productions do and showed what passion, commitment and theatre can be, even when a pandemic is rife!

A multi-media spectacular, this experience was multi-sensory, you watched, you walked, you smelt and in some cases, you sang along. I was transported back to the mid-90s with a soundtrack of Born Slippy and Things Can Only Get Better playing through my headphones, whilst I watched a group of performers having a rave inside a crate at the side of the park, I was transported back to the fire that destroyed so many lives as I walked through the streets of Silvertown and felt haunted by the cast of factory workers staring silently at me as I walked past them.

I watched, mouth open, the secret lives of the Silvertown inhabitants as they got on with their day; scenes recreated in lorries, inside crates, around burning fires whilst a DJ played from a crane and performers danced their dance. I followed the crowd to the abandoned Millennium Mills building where a short film was projected onto the side of the building – as an audience, we stood in silence as our cast of locals shared their stories. I shed a tear, I smiled and I cheered.

This is theatre at its most creative. I hope more people have a chance to experience ARRIVAL and it isn’t goodbye from this cast and crew of many.

5 Star Rating

Review by Faye Stockley

Co-directed by West-end director Matthew Dunster who is currently directing 2:22 A Ghost Story with Lily Allen and London 2012 Paralympic set designer Jon Bausor, this new show has taken inspiration from the local community and will be a mix of storytelling, live performance, music, beatboxing, dance, and film.

The immersive experience will include wearing headphones during the performance to listen to a soundtrack of stories and sounds and there will be installations and surprises at the show’s climax.

To find out more information about Royal Docks Originals including Royal Dock Rainbows – featuring the World’s First Ever Flavour Rainbow and ARRIVAL commissions you can visit: https://www.royaldocks.london/whats-on

Author

  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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2 thoughts on “ARRIVAL at London’s Royal Docks – this is theatre at its most creative”

  1. It was a fantastic event loved every part of it and I’m a resident of Brittania village my name is Maureen Harper. I had a story and song read out and song played called Thank you Mumma – 9 months you carried me. I’ve lived in Brittania village since 1995.

  2. I had the pleasure of meeting a few of the organisers of this amazing event a few weeks before it happened, and they were so gracious, really interested in what everyone had to say.
    Sadly I wasn’t able to attend the event due to health, but of what I heard outside, photos and videos that were taken by my friend, the event looked and sounded spectacular. You could tell how much work was put into making this event happen.

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