Jim Letourneau's Blog

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My Encounters with Simon McBurney

My first encounter with Simon McBurney happened earlier this year in Los Angeles. Julia and I had driven from the San Ysidro Ranch near Santa Barbara to LAX that morning to drop off Tyler, Jenn and the baby Izzy. Julia wanted to do a bit of shopping on Wilshire Boulevard so we parked the car and I went to a caffieneplex on a triangular piece of land at the intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica. This location has a Starbucks AND a Teavana. All my options were covered. 

Simon walked in with two female assistants in tow. He was wearing black. I recognize his face. After a quick look around at the filled Starbucks tables, he decides to leave. 

I Google images of character actors. I check IMDB lists. I can't figure out who this person is. Memory is fluid at my age. I can rattle off all the members of the E Street Band on a good day but only a couple of members of St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Newer memories are becoming harder to recall than older ones. 

The week before our trip to Edinburgh I see the face! I'm researching Edinburgh International Festival plays and the mystery character actor that I saw in LA was none other than established character actor Simon McBurney. I subsequently learned that he writes, produces, directs, and acts in film and theatre. He has an OBE. He appears in the latest Mission Impossible film. The trailer was released on the day I saw him in LA. Considering him a "character actor" was akin to thinking Wayne Gretzky was a professional ice hockey player. 

I celebrate my luck at solving my personal mystery by buying tickets to his play, The Encounter. A few weeks later we were in the audience where he gave an immensely innovative performance.

The next week, we attended Robert Lepage's 887. It is about memory. Just before the lights go down, Simon McBurney walks in and takes a seat on the aisle.  A patron gets up and introduces himself. It looks to me that Simon is not thrilled to be acting interested in this conversation on his day off. I make note of this and reconsider my celebrity selfie collection. In another section of the audience we recognize Obi Abili, who plays the Guard in Antigone, which we had seen the previous evening. 

At the end of the performance many people are standing and applauding. McBurney quickly leaves. We exit the theatre and see Obi chatting with a friend. His friend is wearing a shirt with labels on it.

Julia, strikes up a conversation with Obi and we share our impressions of The Encounter and 887. She asks what Obi what it is like to work with Juliette Binoche. He is diplomatic, but not effusive my wife notes later. The discussion is restricted because Obi's friend Joe hasn't yet seen The Encounter but intends to and it would be rude to spoil his experience. Joe is in a show called Labels.  He hands us cards which we politely accept even though we are leaving Edinburgh tomorrow (Since 887 and The Encounter are now sold out, you should see Labels instead, Obi Abilia and Emma Thompson recommend it). 

That evening, we saw the Daniel Sloss comedy show Dark. Sloss put on a great show and mentioned his flatmate Kai Humphries who we had seen during our first week in Edinburgh.

As we leave the theatre,  I recognize the face of an actor. It is Simon McBurney.