Arts & Entertainment

The Encounter

Photo: Chloe Courtney

Sydney Festival is presenting audiences with an unusual production this month with The Encounter, in which audience members experience the Amazon through the aural sense.

Using binaural technology, which mimics human hearing, the sound effects of the rainforest are conveyed to individual audience members wearing earphones.

Director Simon McBurney was inspired to create the work by Petru Popescu’s book Amazon Beaming, an account of the story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre, who was lost in the Amazon in 1969 and stumbled across the Mayoruna tribe. Unable to speak any common language, McIntyre claimed he could communicate telepathically with tribe members.

McBurney was keen to replicate McIntyre’s sense of isolation and came up with the idea of locking each individual audience member into a private world of sounds.

Taking McBurney’s place in the Sydney production is Richard Katz, who says: “Our audience wears headphones throughout the show and this means I can whisper and still be heard. This gives a very different dynamic for the performer (and hopefully the audience too). Reducing the volume deepens the intensity of the various moments and I am delivering an experience that gets to the emotional centre of the story without being eclipsed by the bombast of having to belt it out to be heard.”

This is a wonderful way to explore the Amazon without encountering its insect life. The effect is so realistic that members of overseas audiences have been seen to swat imaginary mosquitoes from their necks during the show. (ID)

Jan 18–28, 7.30pm (+ 2pm, Jan 21). Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. $77-$110. Tickets & info:


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