The Encounter

Reporter: Charlotte Marshall, first published Wed 17 Feb 2016 13:29

What’s it all about?

Inspired by Petru Popescu’s book Amazon Beaming, Simon McBurney takes audiences on an intimate journey into the Brazilian jungle to discover the sensational, disorientating story of Loren McIntyre, a National Geographic photographer who found himself hopelessly lost in the jungle with the only hope of refuge coming from the illusive tribes of the Javari Valley.

While the stage may be empty but for McBurney, a few dozen half empty water bottles and various bits of sound kit, this encounter could not be more vivid or intimate. Because, here’s the twist, The Encounter requires you to listen through headphones meaning every breath, every squeak of the jungle, crunch of the canopy and quickened breath is conveyed to you as if you were there experiencing everything standing shoulder to shoulder – or ear to ear at least – with Loren.

So evocative is the result of this aural intimacy, if you dare to close your eyes, you too risk getting lost in the jungle.

Who’s in it?

McBurney is the sole performer, imaginatively conjuring multiple characters in our brain, from the cocksure American McIntyre to Barnacle, a mysterious member of the Mayoruna tribe with whom he can seemingly communicate without uttering a word. It’s a mystical story that bends the limits of time and consciousness, and McBurney delivers this with a fittingly magical performance. With just his voice, a few props and Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin’s stunning sound design, he creates a myriad of characters that are so alive you feel you could stretch out your fingers to touch them.

On press nights it’s common to see various members of the audience scribbling – as subtly as they can – throughout the performance. When I took my seat and placed on my headphones, I noted with panic I had forgotten to bring either a pen or paper with me. I shouldn’t have worried, McBurney ensures you barely draw breath for two hours let alone remember to take notes.

What should I look out for?

The million and one emotions The Encounter is likely to raise in you. From feelings of awe for the wonderfully alien, beautiful and otherworldly visions of the jungle McBurney conjures to terror as a panther seemingly sneaks up behind your left ear. From the feeling you are sharing a communal experience with McBurney and your fellow headphone audience members to the sudden stark contrast of feeling completely and utterly alone as the lights fall dark and voices burrow their way into your head.

In a nutshell?

A masterclass in awe-inspiring, time transcending, wild, untamed storytelling, The Encounter takes you on a vivid, heart-pounding journey you’ll never forget.

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

There’s no doubt if you’re already a fan of McBurney’s theatre company Complicite, with all its technological wizardry and emotive theatrical sorcery, you’ll love this. A stranger to Complicite’s work? It’s time to have an encounter.  

The Encounter is playing until 6 March. The show is currently sold out but is set to be live streamed on 1 March. Full details of how you can watch can be found on the Barbican Theatre website.