The Pit, London EC2
Opened 4 September, 2002

**** Somewhere between puppetry and animated installation

Dan Hurlin at first seems like an exceptionally imaginative puppeteer, but there's something very special about his material as well.

The first part of this diptych, The Home Of Bill And Sandy Kelly, is a little reminiscent of the show performed by Ronnie Burkett in the same space last year. Hurlin's is also centred on a building in this case, an unexceptional modern American villa around which his rod puppets, shadow-play figures and the like move. Hurlin's story, though, is clearly autobiographical, as young Dan appears (right down to the trademark red braces), making architectural drawings and finding his sexuality slowly awakening. This is interspersed with the portrayal of an obsessive architectural photographer and a plain old peeping Tom.

It's captivating, but the second part, The Heart Of The Andes, is more fascinating still. With no real narrative, it interweaves more childhood reminiscences from Hurlin this time about art with a meditation on Frederic Church's painting of the same title and various musings on sight itself, not least from a blind accordionist present both in the flesh and in miniature. Paintings and frames are the main puppets here rather than human figures. It's as if one of the cartoons of Peter Blegvad had come alive, and is quite remarkable.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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