EARLY this year, WA illustrator and author Shaun Tan made international headlines when he won an Oscar for the animated short film adaptation of his book The Lost Thing.
But long before he held aloft that shiny golden statue, and even before his wordless graphic novel The Arrival was awarded multiple gongs in 2006 and 2007, Tan was quietly collaborating with Spare Parts Puppet Theatre in his native Fremantle.
The Arrival - a universal story that traverses themes of freedom, migration, family, survival, love and acceptance - took shape as a stage puppetry play before it was published as a book.
“We originally did a commission with Perth International Arts Festival called Aquasapiens, a collaboration that involved Shaun physically painting these puppets we created…when nobody knew who Shaun was,” Spare Parts artistic director Philip Mitchell told Community.
“At the same time, he was beginning to draft The Arrival and I expressed interest in developing a stage play.
“They took very divergent paths and while the stage production of The Arrival draws on the central story and the beautiful illustration, it is rather different because the book takes quite a long time to read, whereas we created a dramatic work that happens over 50 minutes.”
The stage version of The Arrival had its premiere in 2006 to an audience of about 500 at the World Puppetry Festival in Fremantle, before touring interstate and overseas.
With its moving themes particularly relevant to a nation built on migration, Mitchell said The Arrival had strong local resonance, promising very few dry eyes in the audience.
“I remember an elderly gentleman who came with his wife - he didn't have children - and he was in tears, expressing how the show took him back to when he first arrived in Fremantle,” Mitchell said.
“And there was a child talking about his grandfather being from (the former) Yugoslavia…kids were talking to other kids about their heritage.
“It was so moving.”
The Arrival is at Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, until December 23, and from January 9-28.