|Richard Katz in The Encounter|
Inspired by the book Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu. Directed by Simon McBurney. Co-directed by Kirsty Housley. Associate D. Jemima James.Associate Director. Performed by Richard Katz. Designed by Michael Levine. Sound by Gareth Fry with Pete Malkin. Lighting. Paul Anderson. Projection. Will Duke. Complicite. Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Festival Centre. Tues. March 7 – Sat. March 11. 2017. Adelaide Festival.
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
A set of headphones sits inconspicuously upon the back of your seat. Once upon the head the perception of sound, of time and of the world about us changes. A voice whispers Now I am in your left ear. Now I am in your right ear.” Over and over. Performer Richard Katz enters a stage, set up with microphones and a vast collection of drink bottles. Behind him is a sound reflective backdrop. He speaks and the voice sounds within the head, low and haunting, moving from ear to ear as other sounds permeate the eardrums, creating a world of mystery and surreal reality. Or is it fiction? What is reality? What is Time? A physicist discourses upon the nature of Time. Rebecca floats across the conversation to discuss the character of indigenous peoples. A child’s voice pierces the recording to ask Katz what he is doing. We are transported to his London home. Time and distance become one and he ordered world is now a continuum of shifting realities. We are unsettled, fascinated, compelled to listen to the 3D audio that now swirls through space and Time to echo through our head, transported throughout the theatre by binaural technology.
And so Katz and director Simon McBurney lead us into the extraordinary adventures of National Geographic photojournalist Loren McIntyre, kidnapped in 1969 by the Mayoruna Indians of the remote Javari region of the Amazon Valley. Through the headphones we are drawn into the engrossing world of radio theatre by a live actor playing out the intense experience of McIntyre, lost in the jungle, confronted by an indigenous tribe, compelled without language to rely on his wits to survive. Sounds of the jungle, of the tribe, of the animals invade the mind, heightening the suspense, charging the danger, imagining a total world through sound. On stage, Katz inhabits McIntyre, furiously building the action, managing the sound effects and breaking role to speak to his daughter who enters the room. The atmosphere is pregnant with the heart pounding danger of an unfamiliar, frightening and disorientating world in which language and customary communication provides no security.
Gradually, Katz introduces the characters of this amazing adventure. He takes on the roles of Barnacle, the leader of the Mayoruna, Red Cheeks, a tribesman, and Barnacle’s son, and Cambio, his interpretor, who is able to lead him to safety. I sit in the theatre, immersed in Katz’s spellbinding tale, enacted with the sheer artistry of a master storyteller, illuminating the myth, physicalizing the peril and conjuring the sounds and effects within our minds. Is this reality? Is this fiction? Is this true and what is Truth? A swirling sea of sound dispels all notion of reality. I am cast back into the boys’ own adventures of Rider-Haggard. I am reminded of the destruction of ancient cultures and traditions by civilizations erected on greed and material values. These are salutary lessons, not exposed merely by an actor upon a stage, who keeps his audience captivated for two utterly engrossing hours, but echoing through consciousness to inhabit conscience. What have we done? What do we continue to do? What is Truth? What is Reality? What lessons are there to learn about ourselves, our society and out treatment of our fellow humans. Like the sounds of the story, the questions continue to whirl through our heads in search of answers.
Complicite stretches the mind, confronts assumption, challenges expectation and in The Encounter transports us on an unexpected, mind-blowing and thrilling adventure, exploring the story of the amazing Loren McIntyre. On March 24th, Loren McIntyre would have turned one hundred. Complicite’s The Encounter is this innovative company’s tribute to the discoverer of the Amazon’s furthest source. His memory deserves recognition, and Katz’s performance is a worthy tribute.