Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Synergistic Immersion of The Encounter

The Encounter
by Simon McBurney
April 26-May 7, 2017
Curran Theatre

The Encounter, now playing at the Curran Theatre until May 7, 2017, brings an extraordinary synergy of story, sound, memory and message through the performance of one man, Simon McBurney, who also directed. We join him on an immersive journey to follow the physical and metaphysical steps of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who, in 1969, lost his way in the depths of the Amazon rain forest only to emerge with a heightened awareness of one’s humanity and place in the world.

Simon McBurney (photo by Robbie Jack)
Solo performer and director Simon McBurney invites us on a journey that defies the expectation of linear narrative and easy resolution. Each audience member is given a set of high end headphones, and McBurney playfully introduces us to how binaural sound technology (the remarkable sound design of Gareth Fry and Peter Malkin) can make it seem that he is right there. He's in our heads as he chats about everyday experiences and the novelty of the sound system, intertwined with musings on the nature of narrative, memory and time. He's showing us how the mind works, dipping in and out of the well of memory, focusing on impressions of the present, retelling other people’s thoughts. We learn about his life, how his little daughter seemingly interrupts the story until we learn that story is all about interruption, is non linear and boundless, and before long we are collaborating with him to build the set of the theater of the mind and to partake in a visceral experience that gives so much power to, and beyond, the story.

Simon McBurney (photo by Tristram Kenton)
But this is not technology for technology’sake. (I am reminded of George Coates Performances in the early 1990s where technology often eclipsed story.) The Encounter reveals how inextricably intertwined we are from narrative, time, memory and consciousness, made possible by the precise synchronization of sound design, lighting, set design and of course acting.
Simon McBurney (photo by Gianmarco Bresadola)
McBurney brings us along to experience the enlightenment of McIntyre when, after enduring extreme challenges to survival, learns that the native Mayoruna tribe he encountered did not comprehend a separateness between themselves and the world. Stripped of his “stuff"--his camera, shoes, things that anchor him to the world he knows--Lauren shifts into an awareness of another way of knowing, and being. The Mayaruna have seen death at the hands of white man’s greed taking the "blood" of the earth--oil--without respect or regard. We in the audience react not intellectually, but viscerally, to the horrible violation of life and spirit that is not happening just in a remote place in the world, but everywhere.
The Encounter is a call of alarm to the overt destruction our world, and especially the people of the Amazon who have suffered, and are suffering, greatly. What we don't get as Americans is that the Amazon people are us, and we them, and we are the earth. Once we have that realization, the rage bubbles into the need for action, an action one can take by supporting Amazon Watch, a cause promoted by McBurney and the Curran.

The Encounter
by Simon McBurney
Curran Theatre
April 26-May 7. 2017

Creative Staff
Inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu

SIMON McBURNEY Writer, Performer, Director
WILL DUKE Projection
JEMIMA JAMES Associate Director