The story of two siblings separated by adoption is central to The Arrival, a new play by Olivier Award-winning theatre director Bijan Sheibani is now previewing at the Bush Theatre, London (Press Night 26 November). The play explores the real need to keep siblings together when fostering or adoption is taking place, and the life-long detrimental effects that can happen when siblings are kept apart.

TACT, the UKs largest Fostering and Adoption charity, knows the damage that can be caused when siblings are separated.

TACT CEO, Andy Elvin said: ‘TACT knows the importance of siblings remaining together when they go into care because that is what they tell us they want. However, there may be occasions when siblings cannot be all placed together due to concerns of behaviour or risk, or simply because of the lack of available foster families. Fostering sibling groups can sometimes be challenging and demanding, but it is also extremely rewarding. TACT is constantly looking for more foster carers who want to give brothers and sisters a stable family home, particularly those who can care for the larger sibling groups.’

Research shows that maintaining sibling relationships for those in care is associated with more stable placements, stronger developmental outcomes, and better mental health and wellbeing. Conversely, separation often results in life-long issues around identity and attachment.

The Arrival explores these long-term issues, starting with the joyful reunion between biological brothers Tom (Scott Karim) and Samad (Irfan Shamji). Despite Tom’s adoption and all the years spent apart, the two brothers are joined by an undeniable biological bond. But as they become closer and their lives entangle, the psychological effects of being separated begin to cast a dark shadow over their new-found bond.

A taut family drama about obsession, betrayal and the human need to belong, The Arrival is a world premiere written and directed by Olivier Award-winning theatre director Bijan Sheibani (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Brothers Size)

However, it is clear from existing research that a significant number of siblings in care are separated. Research by the Children’s Rights Director for England found that 81% of children in care were separated from their siblings in 2009, 73% in 2011 and 71% in 2014. The Victoria Derbyshire Show reported in 2018 that more than half of siblings were separated in 30 out of 50 councils. There are no official government figures about the number of separated siblings in the care system. This lack of recorded figures on the matter illustrates how this is an underexplored issue that needs more attention.

Keeping siblings together is a general principle of child practice, as outlined by the United Nations:

Siblings with existing bonds should in principle not be separated by placements in alternative care unless there is a clear risk of abuse or other justification in the best interests of the child. In any case, every effort should be made to enable siblings to maintain contact with each other, unless this is against their wishes and feelings. (UNGA, Resolution: 64/142. Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, 2010, para 17).

The primary problem is that there simply are not enough foster carers and adopters for sibling groups. The need for children to be placed in a foster family is often urgent, and there are limited number of homes with the available space to accommodate siblings.

Author and Director of The Arrival Bijan Sheibani’s most recent theatre credits include the UK tour of his National Theatre production of A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney, which transfers to Trafalgar Studios from December, The Brothers Size (Young Vic), Dance Nation (Almeida), Barber Shop Chronicles (National Theatre) and Circle Mirror Transformation (Home Manchester). In 2018 Barber Shop Chronicles toured to full houses in Australia and New Zealand after two sell-out runs at the National Theatre in 2017. It toured the USA for four months in 2018 and is currently touring the UK following a six-week residency at the Roundhouse, London this summer.

Recent opera credits include Nothing for Glyndebourne (Danish National Opera) which was nominated for a 2017 Southbank Sky Arts Award for Best New Opera and Tell Me The Truth About Love (Streetwise Opera)

Bijan has directed two short films, Groove is in the Heart, and Samira’s Party, both of which were selected for the BFI London Film Festival and other international festivals. This year he directed Morning Song for Film Four which he has also written. It is produced by Camilla Bray and Nathanael Baring.

He was an associate director of the National Theatre from 2010-2015 under Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, and artistic director of ATC from 2007-2010. He won the James Menzies-Kitchen Award for Young Directors in 2003 and held the John S Cohen Bursary at the National Theatre Studio from 2003-2004. He was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2010 for Best Director for his production of Our Class, and his production of Gone Too Far! by Bola Agbaje won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre in 2008. The Brothers Size won Best International Production at the Barcelona Critics Circle Awards 2008 and was nominated for an Olivier Award in the same year.

Scott Karim trained at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His theatre appearances include Oklahoma! and The Country Wife (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Village (Theatre Royal Stratford East), Young Marx (Bridge Theatre), Food (Finborough Theatre) Imogen, The Merchant of Venice (Globe Theatre), King Lear (Royal & Derngate, and ATG), Brave New World (Royal & Derngate, and Touring Consortium), The Invisible (Bush Theatre), Dara, Great Britain, Othello (National Theatre), Ladybird (Secret/Heart), Cymbeline, The Brothers Karamazov, The House of Special Purpose, Romeo and Juliet, All for Love/Marriage a la Mode, The Tempest, Ajax, Undiscovered Country, The House of Ramon Iglesias (RADA), Masked (RADA Director’s Showcase). Scott’s television appearances include The Dumping Ground (BBC), Dracula (Hartswood Films), Crazy Diamond 'Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick' (Leftbank for Channel 4 & Sony Television) Britannia (Amazon/Sky), Holby City (BBC). His films include White Girl.

Irfan Shamji was born in Zambia. He attended RADA and graduated in 2017. In his final year of RADA, Irfan played Laertes in Kenneth Branagh’s production of Hamlet opposite Tom Hiddleston. Other theatre credits include Hedda Tesman (Chichester Festival Theatre), Mayfly (Orange Tree Theatre), One for Sorrow (Royal Court) and Dance Nation (Almeida). He was the recipient of the Clarence Derwent Award for his performances in Mayfly, One for Sorrow and Dance Nation.

Irfan’s film credits include Red Joan and Murder on the Orient Express. On television, he has appeared in Urban Myths and Informer for the BBC. Irfan recently voiced characters for Netflix’s Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, produced with the Jim Henson Company.

21 November – 18 January at 7.30 pm, 26 November at 7 pm (no performances 22 Dec – 1 Jan)
Sat matinee 30 November, 7, 14, 21 December, 4, 11, 18 January at 2.30 pm
Wed matinee 4, 11, 18 December and 8, 15 January at 2.30 pm

Tickets priced from £10 (concessions available) can be booked at or at the Box Office on 020 8743 5050

Photo credit: Marc Brenner