Performed by Simon McBurney

20/9/25

 

Twenty years ago McBurney was given Petru Popescu’s book ‘Amazon Beaming’ and from it Complicite have now created this exceptional performance. Its power comes from a mixture of the intriguing narrative, explored through the creative use of sound technologies and McBurney’s potent presence as an actor; taking us in an arch from being a relaxed, anecdotal informal narrator at the beginning to becoming the central character subjected to fear, violence and, at times, joy. It recounts the experiences of the American photographer Loren McIntyre, who traveled extensively in Amazonia in the 1960’s, but in particular it focuses on his project to find and document the elusive Mavoruna people.

He does find them, or is it that they find him? As everything Loren thinks he knows is reversed or challenged by this extraordinary encounter, including the very concept of time. It is a solo performance that encompasses the use of recordings and multi-layered sounds not only to evoke different locations but to open up a sense of time travel. I enjoyed putting on earphones and waiting for a new theatrical experience to unfold. Watching McBurney on the stage while hearing a Jaguar breathing behind me; a child entre the room to the right; the village burning all around me was enthraulling. Research into brain functioning has underpinned Gareth Fry’s intricate sound design.

These sensations are exploited to engage both interest and sympathy on several levels; with the Mavoruna ( McInyre was already aware when he went to find them that contact with outsiders had brought them grief). And, with McIntyre’s journey, which endangered his life, many times, and produced an account so extraordinary it seems beyond belief. How could he then bear witness to the people he wanted to protect? I feel the performance support this aim and created a beautiful reinvention of the ‘as if’ that audiences so desire.

Highly recommend.

Reviewed by Vicky Vatcher