Review: The Encounter

This mind bending and technologically rich work from Complicite Theatre will make you question your view of reality, even if it’s just for a second.

It starts casual. Very casual. Richard Katz (substituting for writer, director and original actor Simon McBurney) is on stage wearing a cap, tee and dad jeans. He talks to the audience on the false premise that there’s been a technical difficulty but, don’t worry, the show will start soon. But it’s already started. Welcome to The Encounter where nothing is as it seems.

Using binaural technology (basically 3D audio), each member of the audience wears a set of specially designed Sennheiser headphones. Katz shows us some neat tricks. It seems like his voice is behind you. He pretends to blow in your ear. You can feel his hot breath. But that’s impossible, as Katz is on stage. Your mind is being deceived even though the trick is revealed right in front of your eyes.

Casually, Katz talks about consciousness and time and plays a few recordings of experts talking about this concept. Is time linear or is it circular? It’s getting a little trippy.

Before the audience realises, the show stops being a casual talk. Katz transports you deep in the Amazon jungle via sound and his mesmerising performance. You can hear the buzzing mosquitoes and monkeys calling in the distance. Katz composes the sounds of the jungle live on stage by looping his voice and creating sounds with various objects on stage. He lowers his voice, puts on an American accent and becomes Loren McIntyre, a Natural Geographic photographer who travelled deep in the Amazon in 1969 to photograph the elusive Mayoruna people.

McIntyre’s strange encounter with this indigenous tribe is ostensibly what this show is about, but The Encounter being The Encounter, this isn’t a straightforward telling of this story. Locations, points of view and time constantly switch.

the encounter-simon-katz-adelaidefestival-adelaide-review(Photo: Shane Reid)

Back to McIntyre. He sees a couple of the Mayoruna and follows them deeper into the jungle to a temporary village. He’s an outcast and can’t communicate with them. And some of the tribe aren’t digging his presence. With logging and disease brought to this place by white men, this is understandable. He bonds with the chief and thinks the chief is communicating with him telepathically.

I have no idea if McIntyre’s telepathic claim is true (he threw back a few jungle hallucinogens on the journey) and whether it’s true or not isn’t really the point of this technically rich and mind bending show: there is more to this world than how we perceive life through our Western eyes. While this may seem a tad Stoner Philosophy 101, The Encounter shows us, in the most trippy way imaginable, that even if you don’t necessarily believe that there is more to life – or our connection with nature – than what is in front of us, at the very least we should care about our impact on the world and the other lives that inhabit it.

The Encounter was performed at the Dunstan Playhouse  on Tuesday, March 7 2017 for Adelaide Festival and continues until Saturday, March 11

Header photo credit: Gianmarco Bresadola

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