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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 22, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

    Two shows to treasure

    Laurence Mackin

    Sometimes, if you are lucky, you stumble across a show, film, exhibition or concert that you immediately want to drag all your friends too. It happens very seldom, but when it does, it’s a joy to grab the opportunity with both hands and share it with others. Dublin is lucky enough to have two such shows at the moment.

    In last Saturday’s Irish Times Magazine, I interviewed Steve McCurry, Magnum photographer extraordinaire and thorough gentleman (you can read the interview here). Unfortunately, due to McCurry’s constant travels and newspaper deadlines, I didn’t get to see the actual exhibition of his work until Saturday, currently at the Gallery of Photography (GoP) in Temple Bar, although I did have access to the images online (you can also view an exclusive online gallery of his work here).

    I don’t think I’m really doing the Irish Times Magazine or the website a disservice when I say that viewing the newspaper and online versions doesn’t come close to experiencing the prints in all their glossy, gallery space glory. It is only up close to his Ultra Chrome images that you appreciate the luminosity and depth of colour that McCurry uses. I had seen his photographs before, but this is a bold, vividly effective collection the GoP has pulled together, and it is no small coup to get McCurry himself in town on March 3rd for a public talk (tickets are long gone for this one, but there are rumours of a larger venue being employed so fingers crossed).

    McCurry is most famous perhaps as a portraitist, and it is easy to see why. He seems to concentrate on the eyes of his subjects and once these are rendered, everything else seems to fall into place. Some photographs tell you what has happened in a particular moment in a particular place; few photographs put you in the room or scene at the same time, and seem to fold the atmosphere around you. That McCurry can do this repeatedly is astonishing. Perhaps the most famous example of this is McCurry’s pictures of the same Afghan girl, taken 18 years apart – it is a haunting picture that seems to hum and crackle on the print (although on the morning I was there, two people spent all their time having a fairly tiresome argument about whether it was actually the same girl).

    Then there is the level of detail and intricacy in his wider, landscape shots. This doesn’t feel like photography; it feels much more painterly, but then that’s precisely the point.

    And for something gloriously different, there is Raoul at the Abbey Theatre (and yes we realise we have plugged these shows before, but they really have to be seen to be believed).

    Raoul is the chaotic creation of James Thiérrée, and the show is a mixture of music, dance, acrobats, circus clownery and theatre. Thiérrée, the grandson of Charlie Chaplin, has put together a show with the merest of scripts and little in the way of a definitive plot, but if I start revealing details, it could ruin the show a little; it is much better to allow Thiérrée himself to unveil the mysteries in his box one by one and watch them take shape on the Abbey stage.

    This is one of the most playful, creative, and touching shows I have ever seen – Thiérrée has turned the Abbey Theatre into a playground of ideas, where anything your imagination can come up with seems possible. The rub is that your imagination will seem a lot smaller than Thiérrée’s ambition in this most extraordinary of shows. The stage craft is staggering, the execution flawless, and the use of music is so effective it was moving audience members to tears.

    Two shows to treasure; miss them to your detriment.

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