London-based theatre company Complicite's reputation for innovation is brilliantly affirmed with a show that deploys cutting-edge digital technology to expand the traditional techniques of theatrical storytelling.
The Encounter is a re-telling of the remarkable true story of a National Geographic photographer lost on assignment in a remote corner of the Amazon in 1969. His survival depends on winning acceptance from an elusive tribe who are retreating to remote parts of the rainforest to escape the devastating impact of modernity on their fragile world.
With no shared language, the photographer forges a bond with the tribal headman through ritualistic actions and eventually embraces the possibility of telepathic communication.
Opening with a highly amusing riff on the vanishing boundary between reality and fiction, solo performer Richard Katz explains the workings of the binaural microphone that generates the show's multi-dimensional soundscape.
The device, encapsulated within a mannequin, transmits to audience headphones. The magic of sonic engineering then conjures up convincing spatial illusions along with a richly textured layering of live sound effects blended into a musical score.
This high-tech wizardry proves ideally suited to a show that challenges the audience to open themselves to a disorienting glimpse of an alien world. Without attempting to bridge the vast gulf that separates pre-modern and post-modern consciousness, it suggests a personal connection between two people can offer a radically different understanding of time and being.
The jungle environment emerges as a threatening and wildly unpredictable place which enters our consciousness through a cacophonous blend of dreams, memories, experiences and feverish hallucinations.
The theme of transformation is beautifully echoed in superb lighting effects raking across textured acoustic tiles and the seamless integration of design and performance elements is testament to Complicite's commitment to the slow and experimental development of theatrical forms.
What: Auckland Arts Festival - The Encounter
Where and when: Aotea Centre, ASB Theatre to March 19
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton