Conceived, Directed and Performed by Simon McBurney
December 24, 2016
💉💉💉💉 out of 5.
Performance Art is alive and kicking in New York City – and not is some wonderful, musty back corner of a warehouse but right here in the bright lights of Broadway! What about that!! Who would have “thunk.”
The Encounter is an entirely different affair from the norm on Broadway. I was sitting a few rows away from a couple (of the musical theatre world) who were a bit shocked and disappointed to see no set and no glitz. In fact the floor was stripped bare and had nothing more then a few mics and mic stands, a worn wooden table, and lots of bottled water strewn around the floor. It looked more like the last hours of a show’s strike rather then the middle of its run. Really – – the only notable feature of the set is a massive upstage wall of sound cushioning acoustic tile. That’s it.
When seated the entire audience was asked to put on the provided headsets. We were told that without the headset on – nothing in the show would make any sense. Then the show started – almost never really started as Simon McBurney came out on the stage looking more like a technician checking over the stage before the SHOW begins. But the show HAD begun.
The show does two things at once. It introduces to the magic of sound design that can play such wonderful tricks with our sense of truth and the stories that we are making out the data that is given to us. He is able to make the tiniest of whispers on stage and we feel it all IN our skulls. He sloshes a bottle of water against his microphones and we are splashing through the water on a boat. The feeling is intense. The story is IN US. It is not coming TO us from the stage. It is being manufactured IN US.
With all of this stage wizardry, Simon McBurney tells us a story of a photographer who ventures out to the Amazon Basin in search of natives and the great picture. Our explorer goes through capture, escape, hallucinogenic drugs, fires, friendships, and tribal wisdom. It is an interesting story. It is magnetic the way it is told through the sound mechanics – but ultimately, I did not find the story that interesting. it didn’t take me to new and interesting places. It took too long to tell – and ultimately the sound effects got repetitious. I also had some trouble with my eye focus. Most of the play seemed to be like radio theatre on steroids – and although our narrator pounded around the stage in vibrant energy – this was a story for our ears and I was out of shape. I kept wanting for the Amazon story to be over so that we could focus on the potential of advanced sound design to take us to other places and stories – not just the Amazon.