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Complicitie - The Encounter

Simon McBurney has always been an explorer, with the writer, actor and director's work with Complicite, the theatre company he co-founded in 1983 as Theatre de Complicite, pioneers in introducing visual-based European-influenced and playfully off-kilter work to British audiences. When twenty years ago McBurney was given a copy of Amazon Beaming, Romanian writer and film director Petru Popescu's 1991 account of National Geographic photo-journalist Loren McIntyre's 1969 trip to the Javari Valley, on the border between Brazil and Peru, its account of McIntyre's three months with a rarely sighted Mayoruna tribe and his quest for the source of the Amazon opened McBurney up to an adventure of his own.

The result is The Encounter, a solo tour de force by McBurney, which marks Complicitie's début at Edinburgh International Festival, and which finds the audience being taken on a journey of their own to discover an ever-shifting world of sound that charts the profound extremes of human consciousness, climate change and beyond.

All of which is as far away from the days when Complicitie won the Perrier Comedy Award during the 1985 Edinburgh Festival Fringe as it is from McBurney's turns in the latest Mission Impossible movie as well as providing the voice of house-elf Kreacher in the seventh Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.

It is McBurney and Complicitie's ongoing inquiry into the human condition, however, which has defined the company as much as the work itself. This is certainly the case with The Encounter, which by fusing Popescu's source material charting McIntyre's own experiences with hi-tech story-telling makes for a very twenty-first century form of communion. Where McIntyre claimed to have communicated with the Mayorunas through a form of telepathy known as 'beaming', paying witness to an ancient ritual involving fasting, dancing and ingesting natural hallucinogens that seemingly transported its arbiters back to the dawn of time, McBurney's audience don headphones for an intimate and potentially equally transformative experience.

As experienced by McIntyre, related by Popescu and subsequently absorbed by McBurney, this international co-production between Complicitie, Edinburgh International Festival and a coterie of partners looks set to continue the chain as it embarks on its own voyage around the globe following its Edinburgh dates. In this way, The Encounter looks set to play host to the purest of theatrical rituals.

The Encounter, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, August 8th-10th, 16th-17th, 19th, 21st-22nd, 7.30pm; August 14th-15th, 20th, 23td, 2.30pm.


Edinburgh International festival Blog, July 2015

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