The Encounter is a theatre show full of surprises, from the astonishing acting skills of Simon McBurney to the new technologies which construct a 3D sound system. Since the very beginning of the show, McBurney is an incredible storyteller. He narrates the adventure of Loren McIntyre, a National Geographic photographer, who was lost in the Amazon forest back in 1969. The story follows the photographer during his incredible encounter with the Mayorouna people, a nomadic clan who live in the forest.
Several narratives intersect during the show. One aspect, which enhances the performance, is McBurney's ability to switch effortlessly between different characters and different times. One moment he is McIntyre lost and anxious in the forest. A short time after, he is back in the present narrating the story and talking sweetly to his daughter. His acting skills stand out especially well in the peculiar scenography of the show. The theatre set is nearly empty, except for a desk with a chair, several microphones and very few other objects that create sounds.
Sound plays a big role and makes The Encounter, together with Mcburney's performance, an unforgettable show. A direct relationship between the audience and the actor is established because of the different sensibility of the microphones and the peculiar headphones worn by the audience. You can hear McBurney whispering in your left ear or hear the sound of tribal drums getting closer and closer. This sound system works particularly well during the scenes set in the Amazon forest. Sounds give the illusion of being there and makes the audience perceive the surroundings in a confronting manner. Sounds recreate a sense of space, which can be lost in traditional performances. The stage is virtually extended to the audience through sounds.
A magic tension is built throughout the whole performance, which reaches its peak in the second part. Initially, the audience is guided through the story and is gradually acquainted with sounds and characters. Then it is pushed into hallucinatory scenarios and held captive by the narrative. At the end of the two hours of this incredible performance, the mind is shocked and fascinated at the same time. The emotional involvement of the audience is very intense. Important reflections about the perception of time and the concept of memory strike significantly in this variegated show. Time seems to stop in this performance and its flow comes back only when the lights are switched back on.
Here is a little clip with Benedict Cumberbatch discussing The Encounter.
The Encounter is inspired by the novel Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu.
Image: via Barbican, photographer Robbie Jack