The Boy Who Talked to Dogs - Adelaide Festival 2021
The true story of Australia’s ‘Dog Man’ Martin McKenna unfolds on stage for the first time in an immersive new production from Slingsby and State Theatre Company South Australia.
Premiering at Thomas Edmonds Opera Studio for Adelaide Festival on Thursday, Feb 25, The Boy Who Talked to Dogs features a creative team including musical performers Emma Luker, Victoria Falconer and Irish actor Bryan Burroughs (Beowulf: The Blockbuster) in the role of Martin.
Directed by Slingsby’s Artistic Director Andy Packer and adapted by Irish playwright Amy Conroy, the rough-and-tumble tale based on McKenna’s memoir will incorporate original songs written by Irish singer-songwriter Lisa O’Neill and a score composed by Adelaide’s own Quincy Grant. Set designer Wendy Todd will create an immersive world that takes audiences from an Irish pub to Martin’s childhood home, complemented by lighting design from Chris Petridis (The Bleeding Tree) and costume design from Ailsa Paterson (Gaslight).
The Boy Who Talked to Dogs is a tale of redemption and transformation, inspired by McKenna’s early teen years living on the streets of Garryowen, Ireland, with a pack of six stray dogs. His 2014 bestselling memoir of the same name explored the lessons he learnt from the canine world, and McKenna has since gone on to dispense this wisdom to dog owners across Australia.
Director Andy Packer says he was compelled to explore Martin’s story after hearing him interviewed on ABC radio in 2016.
“I was really drawn to Martin’s ability to tell his story, where so many things were against him, yet he apportions blame to himself as well as those around him. This honesty and taking responsibility are incredibly admirable and inspiring.” he says. “I was also very drawn to the role that dogs played in Martin’s life. Companion animals have increasing status around the world and I wanted to explore what this meant for Martin.”
The adaptation fuses shadow puppetry, live music and performance in a cabaret-style setting.
“When audiences come to see The Boy Who Talked to Dogs they really will become the community surrounding Martin when he was growing up. The story will take place in front of, around and among the audience. It is thrilling for an audience to be up close to virtuosic performers. The cast we have assembled for the show are outstanding and we are very excited to connect Adelaide Festival audiences with them.”
The Boy Who Talked to Dogs has been developed with the assistance of Draíocht Arts Centre, Dublin 15, Ireland.
Show warning: Contains references to domestic violence. Recommended for audiences 12+.
Images: Emma Luker, Quincy Grant, Victoria Falconer and Bryan Burroughs, and Bryan Burroughs with Pigeon. Photographer Andy Rasheed