Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 3 February 2017
The Encounter, Feb 2, 2017 ****1/2
THEATRE By Complicite & Simon McBurney
(from UK) Merlyn
Theatre, Malthouse, until Feb 10, 2017 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars ****1/2
Review also online at Herald Sun on Feb 2, 2017 and later in print. KH
Richard Katz in The Encounter, pics by Joan Marcus
adjust your headphones because Richard Katz in The Encounter is about to transport
you to the jungles of the Brazilian Amazon in this startling and immersive
feast of sound and story.
be alone on stage surrounded by microphones, reams of videotape and other
detritus of the modern world, but he populates the space with characters through
his versatile voice, evocative storytelling and the maddeningly complex aural
landscape that he and the sound technicians create to hurl us into the
The show is based on Petru Popescu’s book, Amazon Beaming, that explores the experiences
of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who, when stranded in the
remote Amazonian jungle in 1969, encountered the isolated Mayoruna tribe of ‘cat
All audience members wear high-tech headphones that
transmit Katz’s voice and a remarkable array of sound effects directly to our
ears, an experience that feels extremely intimate because Katz seems to be
whispering immediately beside us.
The experience is initially alarmingly disorienting as
Katz’s voice and the soundscape shifts from our left ear to our right or seems
to move around us, behind us, shifting closer or further away as if we are
hearing and experiencing the real world.
This weird and compelling effect is the result of Katz
speaking near the mysterious, ‘binaural’ head that is some inconceivable form
of 3-D microphone that looks like a ghostly sentinel perched on top of a totem pole.
charming and gleeful Katz transports us to the Amazon, addressing us directly
as himself and as and McIntyre, the deep-voiced American, but he also conjures
a parade of other people including Barnacle, the wart-covered tribal chief, Red
Cheeks, the rebellious tribesman and Tootie, a playful boy.
cacophonous sounds of the rainforest and its creatures and people pump into our
ears, we slap away a mosquito, turn to check no one is standing at our shoulder
or walking towards us over crumpled leaves, or that we are not dangerously
close to a surging river.
Encounter is a strangely hallucinatory experience and, as we trek through the
jungle with McIntyre and the tribe, we question our perceptions of reality and what is fact or fiction, what is real or
manufactured, while we
muse with McIntyre about solitude, the
march of time and the nature of civilisation.
ancient rituals and hallucinogens, Barnacle wants to take his tribe back to ‘the beginning’, defying time, returning to
a period and place where white man and his planes, weapons and sickness cannot
the nature of communication as McIntyre struggles to understand how Barnacle
beams messages directly to him without speech, and we confront our own
materialism as McIntyre deals with
losing all material goods, including his precious camera and the film that
holds the images that make the experience ‘real’ for him.
Encounter by Complicite is a challenging and mesmerising performance that
creates a world in our minds and reminds us of the extraordinary skill of the
actor and the magic that is great theatre.