McBurney returns with a compelling solo performance

The Encounter

Inspired by the novel Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu

Complicite, Simon McBurney

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Complicite returns to the Holland Festival with a compelling new solo performance directed and performed by Simon McBurney. In The Encounter, the British writer, actor and director delivers a show full of intrigue and wonder, gently whispering his story in the audience’s ears. McBurney has based his story on Petru Popescu’s non-fiction bestseller Amazon Beaming, about the American photographer Loren McIntyre who, in 1969, went in search of the mysterious Mayoruna tribe in the Amazon rain­forest. After Complicite’s spectacular multimedia staging of The Master and Margarita in 2012, McBurney has created another imaginative narrative form, using innovative sound technology and headphones for the audience. Combining the epic and the intimate, he turns this extraordinary encounter between two worlds into an exciting experience.


'Funny, profound, moving and visionary, I can think of nothing more to ask for.'
The Daily Mail ★★★★★

'...mesmerising theatrical trickery... spellbinding'
The Daily Telegraph ★★★★★

The Encounter is a tour de force'
Financial Times ★★★★★

A five-star hallucinogenic trip with Complicite … who are incapable of remaining within known theatrical boundaries. A must-see – or perhaps I should say, a must-hear'
Independent ★★★★★

blind and hearing impaired visitors

This performance is also accessible for blind and hearing impaired visitors. Please contact the festival box office for more information:
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Background information

More than twenty years ago, English actor, writer and director Simon McBurney was handed a book called Amazon Beaming (1991), written by Petru Popescu. It was an account of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre's expedition to the Javari Valley, deep in the rainforests of South America, to locate the source of the Amazon. 

McIntyre landed at a small lake in the Apurímac region of Peru, which was later named Laguna McIntyre. More importantly, it was during this journey that he encountered the Mayoruna people - an encounter that was to change his life, bringing the limits of human consciousness into startling focus.


McBurney knew straightaway that one day, in one way or another, he would do something with this book. Now, after a long period of research, this journey is the inspiration for The Encounter, a performance with his theatre company Complicite. Using only his body and voice, a handful of props, light projections, a sound design by Gareth Fry and extraordinary, innovative sound technology, McBurney takes the audience on an imaginative journey into the depths of the jungle. The sound technology includes ultra-sensitive microphones, binaural recording equipment (providing an immersive, 3D stereo effect), samplers, voice-distortion and a treasure trove of audio and music recordings, partly field recorded in the South American rainforest. Transmitted direct to the audience through provided headphones, these elements combine to build a deeply immersive, shifting world of sound. Part audio play, part performance and part aural theatre, The Encounter plugs straight into the power of the imagination.


McBurney has been interested in the way the human brain works as a neurological machine, since his 1999 play Mnemonic, which deals with the function of memory. In an interview for the Edinburgh International Festival he said: ‘The research I did for Mnemonic led to all kinds of questions about the nature of our consciousness. While The Encounter is not exactly about consciousness, consciousness is a key thought behind it.'


McBurney compares his way of working in the theatre to the composition of music. ’Sometimes I don't know exactly why I put one thing with another. I just like the sound of it, or I just like the look of it. And its meaning becomes apparent [only] afterwards. When they ask me what audiences can expect when they come to see The Encounter, I’m overcome by a slight feeling of panic, because I don't know what to expect myself. But what they can expect is a very direct relationship with me and a very direct relationship with story telling and perhaps a new way of listening.’


After A Disappearing Number (2007), the opera A Dog’s Heart (2010) and The Master and Margarita (2012), The Encounter will mark McBurney's fourth appearance at the Holland Festival. The Encounter had its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival last year, receiving an enthusiastic response from press and public alike.




Simon McBurney (1957) is a British actor, director and writer. In 1983, McBurney co-founded the theatre company Complicite – 'a nomadic family', in his own words – with Annabel Arden and Marcello Magni. Complicite's work is strongly influenced by the ideas of Jacques Lecoq, (1921–1999), one of the pioneers of mime and physical theatre. 

They create a strongly visual style of theatre, with visceral, poetic and surrealist images supporting the text. Their productions often involve complex use of technology, such as projection and cameras. By integrating text, music, image and action, the company strive to create surprising, disruptive theatre. After winning the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1985 for A Minute Too Late, Complicite have gone on to collect more than fifty prestigious prizes. McBurney has also been involved in various other projects outside of Complicite, including writer and art historian John Berger's The Vertical LineFrench and Saunders Live and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui starring Al Pacino.


As an actor, McBurney has played in nearly fifty feature films, including The Last King of ScotlandThe Theory of Everything and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, as well as in TV series RevThe Borgias and Utopia. McBurney made his Holland Festival debut with A Disappearing Number (2007), about the search for infinity by two of the 20th century's most famous mathematicians: Srinivasa Ramanujan and G.H. Hardy. He returned in 2010 and 2012, with A Dog's Heart and The Master and Margarita.



directed and performed by
Simon McBurney
toneelbeeld, kostuums
Michael Levine
Kirsty Housley
Gareth Fry with Pete Malkin
Paul Anderson
Will Duke
associate director
Jemima James
Edinburgh International Festival, the Barbican, London, Onassis Cultural Centre – Athens, Schaubühne Berlin, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, Warwick Arts Centre
supported by
Sennheiser, The Wellcome Trust

'Funny, profound, moving and visionary'
The Daily Mail ★★★★★

'...mesmerising theatrical trickery... spellbinding'
The Daily Telegraph ★★★★★

The Encounter is a tour de force'
Financial Times ★★★★★

A five-star hallucinogenic trip with Complicite … who are incapable of remaining within known theatrical boundaries. A must-see – or perhaps I should say, a must-hear'
Independent ★★★★★

This performance was made possible with support by