The Encounter, an immersive theater piece written, directed, and presented by Simon McBurney, is a one man show inspired by Petru Popescu’s novel Amazon Beaming, about real-life American photographer Loren McIntyre’s life-changing journey in 1969. McInnyre got lost in a remote area of the Amazonian rain-forest while looking for the elusive Mayoruna people-the Cat people.
The piece uses innovative soundscape and binaural technology (headphones with separate sound setting for the left and right ear) to bring the audience into an intimate, sensory journey. The soundscape combined with light projection, McBurney’s passionate delivery, and a non-linear timeline creates a visceral and strangely meditative almost psychedelic experience.
I didn’t know much about the piece when I entered the theater and was overwhelmed by the so called, Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, otherwise known as frequency illusion or recency illusion. This phenomenon occurs when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced or been told about suddenly crops up constantly. The play talked about the importance of ecological awareness, the need to change our ways of thinking, the necessity of altering the human centrist worldview, the struggles of indigenous people, the destructive forces of extraction economy. While through its delivery Simon McBurney highlighted the importance of storytelling, which Donna Haraway extensively writes about.
I felt that this feeling is not an illusion its not a phenomenon, it is a sign of the current times saturated with the urgency of climate change and the awakening of many to the prerequisite for living and dying together with all species.
The Encounter is a beautifully crafted and delivered piece, a visceral experience, that took me into childhood states of night time readings and story telling. I found myself with eyes closed many times through the show, enjoying the tale of mind altering journey that the photographer experienced. Meeting all the inhabitants of the story through the soundscape of voices and noises, feeling their struggles and joys while periodically being dragged back to the actor’s home, where he is working on the piece we are seeing.
I felt relaxed with a strange numbness in my limbs after the show. Spending two hours doing nothing else but listening to a story, no distractions, emphasized the message I took home with me; I need to listen more, tell more stories receive and give , exchange, stop rushing and be present.