April 5, 2017 at 2:51 pm PST | by Troy Masters
Voyage to the rainforest in ‘The Encounter’
Encounter, Wallis Annenberg, Los Angeles, Simon McBurney

Simon McBurney. Photo by Giancarlo Bresadola

If you’re a fan of theater that stretches boundaries — both those of your expectations and of the art form itself — the Wallis has an upcoming production that belongs at the top of your must-see list for spring.

“The Encounter” is a solo performance inspired by the book “Amazon Beaming,” by Petru Popescu, relating the true story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre, who, in 1969, was lost in the remote Jovari region of the Amazon. His experiences there led him to a startling encounter that would change his life, and as his story unfolds (through the narration of actor/director Simon McBurney), his South American adventure becomes an inner journey that explores questions about how we live and what we believe to be true.

This is not just another one-man show. It’s a highly unorthodox theatrical event that engages your senses in unexpected ways. McBurney combines his storytelling skills with the use of cutting-edge aural technology to lead you on an epic journey from the intimacy of his home in London to deep into the rainforest. The audience wears headphones throughout the performance, through which they are immersed in an intricate 360-degree soundscape weaving together the sounds of the Amazon (complete with the buzzing of insects, bird calls and the roaring of unknown beasts) with the actor’s narrative virtuosity. The result is a visceral experience that transports listeners from their seats in the theater on a journey to the depths of the jungle and beyond.

Originally produced by the U.K.’s innovative Complicite Theatre Company, “The Encounter” followed its acclaimed London debut with a limited engagement on Broadway before making its way to Los Angeles. McBurney (who is Complicite’s leader and one of its founding members) discovered Popescu’s book two decades ago, and spent five years bringing his interpretation of it to the stage through experiments, improvisation and workshops.

Though he may be less well-known to American audiences than to those in his native England, the play’s creator and star will nevertheless be familiar to many from appearances in television shows such as “The Vicar of Dibley,” “The Borgias” and “Absolutely Fabulous,” as well as roles in films like “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Theory of Everything,” and “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.” His theatrical resumé is vast; in addition to his work with Complicite, he has performed in and directed dozens of plays, including acclaimed New York productions of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” and “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” starring Al Pacino. In 2005, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to Drama.”

The Encounter’
Directed and performed by Simon McBurney
April 6-16, 2017
Bram Goldsmith Theater
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills

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