Skip to main content

The Encounter

Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Five stars

It's not immediately apparent that the man in jungle fatigues and army cap who slips onto a stage littered with microphones, speakers and a smorgasbord of hi-tech twenty-first century kit is Simon McBurney. Nor that his jokey demonstrations of sensurround binaural sound inbetween taking pictures of a headphone-clad audience on his iPhone for his children means the show has begun. But then, defining the beginning of time itself is what drives McBurney's mind-expanding exploration of human consciousness in this world premiere of a co-production between McBurney's Complicitie company, Edinburgh International Festival and a host of suitably pan-global partners.

Inspired by Romanian writer Petru Popescu's book, Amazon Beaming, The Encounter ostensibly tells the story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre, who in 1969 stumbled upon the Mayoruna tribe on the edge of Portugal and Brazil. McIntyre's experience with a people already pillaged by white western developers is enlightening enough in its consciousness-raising voyage into the unknown. McBurney's telling, however, transcends the story's roots to become part action-packed adventure, part immersive meditation, peppered throughout with an aural cut-up of scientific commentary, a contemporary classical underscore and the voices of McBurney's own children bringing him back down to earth.

McBurney and his army of collaborators, who include designer Michael Levine, sound designer Gareth Fry and co-director Kirsty Housley, have integrated a dazzling technical display into McBurney's journey. At the piece's heart is McIntyre and McBurney's encounter, not just with a lost civilisation attempting to preserve their purity, but with their very being and an entirely constructed western so-called civilisation they navigate their way through in an astonishing theatrical feat where discovery is all.

Supported by Sir Ewan and Lady Brown through the Edinburgh International Festival Commissioning Fund.

The Herald, August 10th 2015



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …