ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

15/03/2017 - 19/03/2017

Auckland Arts Festival 2017

Production Details




Someone is blowing in your ear, and it isn’t anybody in your immediate vicinity. You can feel this distant person’s breath (hot) and his urgency (hotter), and the sound of him is all over the place – behind you, before you, to either side of you, close and distant, shouting and whispering, sometimes in several voices at once. 

– The New York Times

One of the hottest international theatre works, direct from London, Edinburgh and Broadway, is coming to Auckland Arts Festival 2017.

Created by award-winning British theatre company,Complicite, The Encounter is the true story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who, in 1969, found himself lost in the remote Javari Valley of the Brazilian Amazon. It was an encounter that was to change his life and bring the limits of human consciousness into startling focus.

Through the use of cutting-edge binaural technology and virtuosic storytelling, The Encounter creates an intimate and shifting world of sound for each and every audience member, plunging them unswervingly into McIntyre’s mesmerising and visceral inner voyage.

Directed by actor and Complicite Artistic Director Simon McBurney, with a spellbinding solo performance by Richard Katz, The Encounter is a visually beautiful and highly technical piece of storytelling which traces McIntyre’s journey into the depths of the Amazon rainforest.

Along with climate change, deforestation and the plight of tribal peoples, The Encounter explores questions around the nature of time, human consciousness and material reality. As such, a number of eminent scientists, climate change campaigners, anthropologists and indigenous Amazonian people were involved in the making of the production. 

The sound design by award-winning designer Gareth Fry uses new technology to create an unparalleled sense of intimacy, as sound is recorded as if through two ears and then transmitted directly to the audience through headphones. Pre-recorded voices, music and the sound of the rainforest are all woven into the performance alongside a series of ingenious live effects, and Katz’s lyrical telling of the story. 

Complicite was founded in 1983 and has since toured all over the world and won over 50 major theatre awards.  

…this production from the genre-bending Complicite company is one of the most fully immersive theatre pieces ever created. The New York Times

The Encounter is a tour de force that shows contemporary theatre at its most immersive and thought-provoking… an aural and visual delight. 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 ★★★★★

It is a sensuous, immersive foray into sound, and an experiment in time-bending and mind-melding. It’s also a ripping yarn. Sunday Times ★★★★★


The show of the year, hands down. WhatsOnStage

On a good night, theatre can make you see the world through new eyes. And, in the case of this revelatory new one-man show from…Complicite, can make you hear the world through new ears too…truly thrilling. Times ★★★★

A Res $89 | A Res Conc $82 | B Res $75 | B Res Conc $69

Wed 15 Mar 7.30pm, Thur 16 Mar 7.30pm, Fri 17 Mar 7.30pm, Sat 18 Mar 1.30pm & 7.30pm, Sun 19 Mar 2.30pm

Talk: Thurs 16 March

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre | 09 951 2501

1hr 50mins no interval

Recommended for ages 12+

Headphones are supplied and will need to be worn by the audience throughout the performance.

The Encounter is can be enjoyed by blind and low vision patrons. Written introductory notes are available on request. Touch Tour – Sunday 19th March at 1pm.

For notes on accessibility for hearing impaired, deaf, blind and low vision patrons, please visit

Complicite website:


Twitter: @Complicite


Visit the resource website for more information on the making of The Encounter.

A Complicite co-production with Edinburgh International Festival, the Barbican, London, Onassis Cultural Centre – Athens, Schaubühne Berlin, Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne and Warwick Arts Centre. Supported by Sennheiser and The Wellcome Trust.

With support from Platinum patrons Andrew and Jenny Smith, Peter Tatham and Adrian Burr



Spellbinding solo performance by Richard Katz

Theatre ,

1 hr 50 mins

Jungle tale treat for senses

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 24th Mar 2017

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. [More]


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Expanding Storytelling

Review by Rachael Longshaw-Park 24th Mar 2017

Having the voice of Richard Katz whisper into your right ear is a profoundly intimate encounter you wouldn’t expect from the comfort of your chair situated ten metres from the stage, yet, as Katz demonstrates in his preshow demonstration, technology can take theatre to places we have never experienced before.

For one hour and fifty minutes Katz manages to deliver a complex narrative that weaves multiple time-lines, voices and concepts together into an overwhelming aural performance. [More


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Richly complex expression of an extraordinarily beguiling ordeal

Review by Nik Smythe 16th Mar 2017

The stage is set like a giant sound studio: the entire rear wall covered with moulded grey foam sound-proofing, various microphones and speakers placed around with a table and boxes and an excessive number of plastic water bottles strewn about.  As we enter, solo performer Richard Katz casually lurks to one side with his stage manager while we hear recorded technical instructions for checking the individual headphones on our seats are working properly, vital as they are to the experience to come.

Seemingly the only aesthetic object is the sculpted head on a mic stand centre stage, which turns out to be an incredible technological tool, also crucial for the aural odyssey to follow with its 360° sonic placement capability, whereby, through our headphones, we hear the soundscape unfold as though we were at the centre of it. 

Katz convivially introduces himself and establishes the multiple timelines and metaphysical conundrums that permeate the production, such as the notion that time is a circle, not a line – a concept that will once again prove essential to the ensuing narrative. With natural humour he spends a good ten minutes demonstrating the technological wherewithal, so that our initial confusion and amazement with it subsides enough to be able to pay attention to the story proper by the time it kicks off.

This uniquely immersive production is inspired by Romanian author Petru Popescu’s 1991 novel Amazon Beaming, based on National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre’s gruelling physical and philosophical odyssey into the depths of the Amazon rainforest.  It all starts innocently enough with him travelling up the legendary river in October 1969, in search of the famously elusive Mayoruna ‘cat people’ tribe, when the world as he knows it quickly vanishes as he excitedly follows a pair of them deep into the jungle without marking his way. 

The pursuit eventually brings him to a small ‘village’ of makeshift huts, populated by a large group of emaciated natives with whom he is unable to communicate verbally.  However, the first of many curiously esoteric factors in his adventure is his apparent telepathic connection with the tribe’s shaman.  As Loren attempts to establish any means of returning to his boat, he also needs to justify his presence to more suspect members of the tribe to ensure his self-preservation. 

The total length of time McIntyre spent lost in the Javari Valley is not clarified; as time stretches into days, weeks and/or any applicable larger units, his extensive journey takes on geographical, anthropological, socio-political and ultimately existential significance.  While Western economic interests threaten the lifestyles of the Mayoruna people, so McIntyre’s own perception of life, time and purpose are irrevocably transformed during his intense, strenuous and occasionally hallucinogenic encounter with them.

Although Katz is the only performer we see, he is supported by a long register of creative and technical collaborators: Simon McBurney’s direction is an impressive feat of coordination, achieved with the assistance of Jemima James and Kirsty Housley; Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin’s eclectic and comprehensive sound design is realised with the input of supervisor Guy Coletta and a few engineers; Paul Anderson and Laurence Russell’s evocative lighting design enhances the view for anyone not just closing their eyes to immerse themselves in the multilayered soundscape. 

More than a dozen recorded voices include actual people, notably Popescu himself and other academics, as well as actors playing various incidental roles.  On reflection, despite a handful of women credited, I don’t recall (for what it’s worth) any significant female characters appearing in McIntyre’s astonishing tale. 

Indeed, the compelling effects of this prodigious sonic wizardry draw us into our own kind of time-travelling reverie, with occasional reprieves when his delightfully naughty daughter interrupts Richard’s work as he toils into the night preparing the very show we are currently watching.  While the soundtrack is the primary theatrical device there are a number of appealing visual components to engage us further.  Katz physicalises his entire performance as Loren, with light and shadow employed to striking effect, emphasising particular moments for maximum intensity.

The rich complexity of all these combined production elements is an appropriate collective conduit for expressing the extraordinarily beguiling ordeal.  A fair degree of concentration is required to keep up but overall our journey is comparatively comfortable compared to the protagonist’s protracted trial, although during one chaotically climactic scene the crescendo of voice, sound and music does reach uncomfortably cacophonous proportions. 

It is both enchanting and disconcerting that even though we’re fully informed and aware that this whole experience is a fiction, an aural illusion as it were, it’s impossible for our senses to not ‘believe’ what they are perceiving.  As we exit into the night there’s an odd feeling of a kind of phantom exhaustion, as though we really have just got back from tracing the mighty Amazon to its previously undiscovered source. 


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