The Encounter at the Barbican
Co-directors Simon McBurney and Kirsty Houseley’s The Encounter has already enjoyed a successful run at the Barbican and on Broadway. Now, once again on the Barbican stage, McBurney returns to returns to play photojournalist Loren McIntyre as he is represented in Amazon Beaming – a novel by Petru Popescu detailing McIntyre’s fantastical account of his time spent lost in the Amazon with an indigenous tribe known as the Mayoruna.
First and foremost, The Encounter is a trip – and a good one too. The groundbreakingly immersive nature of the play coupled with an ample dose of audio-visual trickery can be both jarring and soothing but is heavily weighted in favour of the latter. Often, listeners (indeed, listening is a key theme of the piece, and often takes precedence over actually watching) are tempted to close their eyes and lean into the calming artificial deepness of McBurney’s voice as McIntyre.
This new low timbre is but one of the many striking sound effects employed throughout the show. At a glance, the scenery appears scaled back as there’s only a cluttered work desk, a fancy head-shaped microphone, a box and some water bottles on the expansive stage. However, McBurney’s use of the materials and technology at his disposal results in a production that is anything but scaled back.
The technological feats achieved here are impressive, and McBurney is very convincing in this one-person show which he has clearly poured his heart into. But there are times where the nature of the production lends itself more to being an audiobook than a play. Some sequences could be described as perhaps a little too calming, especially in a late evening showing with no interval. But just when some might be letting themselves slip a little too deep into the warm water of McIntyre’s slow, rumbling voice, McBurney makes sure to rip you into consciousness again.
The Encounter is at the Barbican from 14th April until 15th May 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.