Vault Festival: On Arriving (Pit, The Vaults)


The Vault Festival, Pit at The Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo. The Pit is on your left past the box office and opposite the bar.


4-9 Feb at 6pm. Running time 1 hr.


Written by Ivan Faute, performed by Sophia Eleni. Produced by Searchout Theatre and Annie Tayler. Directed by Cat Robey. Lighting design Richard Owen.


A new one-woman play, exploring a young refugee’s right for survival as her country falls apart before her eyes.

Sophia Eleni in On Arriving. Image by Steve Gregson
Sophia Eleni in On Arriving. Image by Steve Gregson.


On Arriving is a story of a refugee, of her story and her journey. In the sharing of elements of her experience – large and small, good and bad – this woman becomes more than a statistic.

The Pit at The Vaults smells damp and has water running down the walls. A crumbling, atmospheric space where we find the character of the refugee woman (Sophia Eleni) in a chair, clutching her backpack like a child.

At first she is hesitant and doesn’t quite trust us. Her body language is closed, her voice doesn’t fully project. But as she opens up about her experience, both back home (her country is never revealed) and on her flight to a new place to settle, she can rage, laugh, and cry and we are with her every step of the way.

Sophia Eleni in On Arriving. Image by Steve Gregson
Sophia Eleni in On Arriving. Image by Steve Gregson.

Eleni has composed the music which occasionally layers and accompanies Ivan Faute’s haunting and poetic text, and at a couple of key points even that crumbling wall behind the stage flickers with projected images that take us onto the boat this woman travels on, and under the bombers which plague her country.

Cat Robey directs the piece with an eye to moments which must exclude as well as include the audience. We are those whose sympathy may have an agenda, those who “we do not understand”. The staging is sparse: two chairs, which can be moved around; the occasional prop from inside the backpack to illustrate a memory.

There is no linear structure to this play as our memories are not wired that way. This puts enormous pressure on Eleni to conjure up a range of emotions in quick succession, and she ably rises to the challenge, making this woman completely believable.

All the hope of finding peace in a “place that sounds musical”, of young love, of idealism, is here. The devastation, too, of not knowing what happened to loved ones or knowing only too well what happens when “my prayer should have been wider”.

Judgement – Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

A powerful script and an evocative setting makes this another Wow.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see On Arriving.