Adelaide Festival 2021: The Boy Who Talked to Dogs

Image courtesy of the State Theatre Company of South Australia

WHO: Slingsby and State Theatre Company

WHEN: Until 14 March 2021

WHERE: Thomas Edmonds Opera Studio, Adelaide Showground

COST: Click here for details

Isolated, ridiculed, and oppressed, newly teen-aged Martin needed escape from his hometown of Limerick, Ireland. The Boy Who Talks to Dogs centres around a boy being made the laughing-stock of his school by his cruel teacher, and crouching in fear alongside his mother from his intimidating and abusive father. Martin makes the decision to flee alone, but his cold and lonely path is soon intercepted by a pack of stray dogs, where he gains a sense of belonging and purpose in the most unlikely company.

Based on an astonishing true story, this immersive tale is told from interactions between the older and reflective Martin with the local Aussie Irish pub band. The Boy Who Talks to Dogs also incorporates shadow puppetry and projections to portray the hounds within the story. Unlike recent State Theatre Company productions, where the chequerboard layout seating dampens the communal experience of theatre, the set design cleverly has the audience seated around pub tables of this establishment. With the band in one corner, a table-cum-stage in the centre and various locations unveiled throughout the retelling. The pub feel was accentuated by the pre-performance dog-themed pub quiz, the winners taking home the prized meat tray. The multicolour lamps adorning the tables and torches for the shadow puppetry added to the immersion of the play as Martin and the Irish folk musicians weave through the crowd throughout as the story unfolds.

The fiery portrayal of Martin by Bryan Burroughs, heightened everything on stage: the spit, sweat, grime, and tears of a desperate and lost puppy, willing itself on to survive as the wolves circle in ever closer. Surrounding musicians Quincy Grant and Emma Luker, and narrator and songstress Victoria Falconer bolster Bryan’s performance, transforming from whimsical to hypnotic as the story progresses. The Boy Who Talks to Dogs is adventurous and uplifting, a tale that has to be witnessed to be believed.

4 out of 5 stars

Milly Farmer

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