Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

One Man's Story with Many Voices

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

One Man's Story with Many Voices

Article excerpt

Near the beginning of his solo show "The Encounter," Simon McBurney blows in your right ear -- you being one of the 800 or so people sitting in the John Golden Theatre, where the production opened Thursday night.

He doesn't, of course, actually blow in the audience's collective ear. It's a trick of the sound coming through the headphones that have been distributed. But you'd swear someone was breathing intimately right against your face.

In McBurney's explanation, it's a story we're telling ourselves.

"We all mistake stories for reality," he says in his conversational introduction to the show, "[because] stories are how we understand life."

He then proceeds to narrate and dramatize a story, based on the strange actual adventure described by National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre, who, in 1969, was flown into an isolated area of Brazil's Amazon jungle, and left alone on a mission to find and photograph members of the Mayoruna, an elusive indigenous people.

Promptly getting lost, he does encounter a group of Mayoruna. With no common language, they can't communicate verbally, and he's not sure whether he's become their captive or their guest.

His experience is given an almost hallucinatory quality by the use of sound, designed by Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin.

Through the use of a binaural microphone, a stereophonic experience, akin to 3-D, is achieved, with voices and noises seeming to come from everywhere, including behind or right next to us.

At one point, I was so startled, I almost leaned over to ask my neighbor to keep quiet.

In addition to sounds intrinsic to the story, there are recorded comments drifting in and out, from writers, ethnologists, people who knew McIntyre and, charmingly, from McBurney's 6-year-old daughter, Noma.

The voice of the little girl, who can't sleep, keeps politely interrupting McBurney from his work on creating the play, until he finally tries to get her to drop off by, of course, telling her a story. …

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