REVIEW – The Encounter (HOME, Manchester)

Simon McBurney in The Encounter at HOME, Manchester © Robbie Jack
Simon McBurney in The Encounter at HOME, Manchester
© Robbie Jack
Upstaged Rating: 

The Encounter is an adventure story which gets inside your head. Literally. Every member of the audience is issued with a set of headphones and using cutting edge audio technology we are transported to the Amazonian rainforest where we find ourselves inside the head of Loren McIntyre, a stranded American photojournalist.

In 1969, photographer Loren McIntyre was dropped into a remote part of the Brazilian rainforest to make contact with the Mayoruna people for a feature he was working on for the National Geographic. Tracing McIntyre’s steps into the dense Amazon rainforest, Simon McBurney gives an immensely powerful solo performance. By combining 3D audio technology with dynamic storytelling, The Encounter is an intense and intimate show which weaves its way into your mind, becoming as much about the storytelling as the narrative itself.

Simon McBurney’s performance is a true tour de force, his rich and complex storytelling draws us close, in the same way that photojournalist McIntyre became compelled by the Mayoruna. Creating the Amazonian soundscape from everyday objects and familiar vocal sounds – a whistle and the beat of his chest quickly becomes a repetitive dance ritual; the rustle of a crisp packet, a fire and the sound of a water bottle, a noisy ground underfoot. It’s totally immersive and remarkable piece of theatre – the sounds of the jungle take over your mind and the intensity is immense, like a mosquito buzzing close to your ear.

Due to the intelligent use of technology, the audience experiences the same kind of heightened consciousness as McIntyre feels in the jungle. At the start of the production, McBurney presents all of the technology to us and explains how he is going to use it in the show. It’s a fascinating insight into the creative audio capability and knowing how McBurney plans to deliver the show does not detract from the effect it has on our imaginations.

The Encounter is a richly layered exploration of the importance of stories, the fascination with different cultures and the influence of time and technology upon our lives. A unique and wonderfully intoxicating two hours in McBurney’s company is time well spent.

-Kristy Stott

The Encounter is running at HOME until 19 March 2016. Click here for tickets.