(Claire Allfree’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 2/17.)
What might it sound like to be lost 400 miles inside the Amazon jungle? Might you hear the woozy buzz of mosquitoes, the eerie cry of exotic birds, the feathery crunch of the forest floor? Might you also be unable to tell where the sounds are coming from, or whether you’ve even imagined them? This is the sorcery of Simon McBurney’s new solo Complicite show, which uses binaural technology to transport and disorientate, and which the audience experiences through special headphones. Sound can’t literally intoxicate, but such is this show’s aural potency that at times you do wonder if you are drunk.
The Encounter is the story of Loren McIntyre, an American photographer who in 1969 tracked down the “lost” Mayoruna tribe deep in the Amazon jungle. Basing his account on Petru Popescu’s 1991 book about McIntyre, McBurney takes us in McIntyre’s footsteps, but he also takes us on the journey he took to make the show. Alone on stage with a desk, a few bottles of water and a couple of microphones, he chummily shows us how the tech works, as well as its transfiguring effects (when McBurney whispers in our right ear that our ear will feel warm, it does). There are basic Foley techniques (a shaken bottle of water becomes the lap of a river) but also layers of prerecorded sound, including conversations between McBurney and his young daughter, so that our notions of time, borders, reality and artifice start to blend into a wondrous aural soup.