The Boy Who Talked to Dogs, a show by the renowned Australian theater troop Slingsby, premiered in Galway on Wednesday as part of the Baboró International Arts Festival for Children.
The show follows Martin, a 13-year-old boy plagued by hardship at home and in school, who chooses to run away from home and live on the streets in the company of stray dogs.
“I think it was great. I think the dad was pretty mean,” said a student from the Radharc Na Mara Primary School. “My favorite part was when [Martin] met all the dogs.”
Primary school teacher Roisin Moran agreed that the children were having a good time; “They’re laughing a lot, and I think they liked the actors, too.”
The troop performed at the Black Box theater to an audience of 200 people, which venue manager Midie Corcoran called maximum capacity with the current seating structure. He credits Slingsby with bringing people into the theater.
“Bums on seats is where it all counts. You sell out the show, and it’s good publicity for the festival. When you have to turn people away—that’s the best publicity that you can get,” said Corcoran.
Slingsby is an internationally renowned theater troop based in Adelaide, Australia, whose original productions have toured in over ten countries, including the USA, China and India. Their rendition of The Boy Who Talked to Dogs won the 2021 Ruby award for Best Collaboration.
Playwright Amy Conroy adapted The Boy Who Talked to Dogs from Martin McKenna’s memoir, where he described running away from his family’s house in Garryowen in the 1970s.
In a Q&A session after the premiere actor Bryan Burroughs, who portrays Martin in the show, spoke to what he found most resonant about the story.
“Whatever is in your soul that you’re attached to, that makes you feel like your life has meaning: a human being, and animal, your passion, whatever you’re into. To have that stripped away from you, and then to be told that’s your fault, is devastating. (…) How do you live in the world when what you love is gone? And can something else come in and fill that?” he said.
“When we opened the show in Adelaide I was speaking to Martin,” said director Andy Packer, “and he said that he had wished when he was a child, sleeping under the tracks in the freezing cold Irish winter rain, he wished that somebody would reach out and tell him it would be okay. You’ll be warm one day.”
The Boy Who Talked to Dogs ran until Friday 20 October at Galway’s Black Box theater, before moving on to Castlebar and Wicklow.
Baboró International Arts Festival for Children is an annual charity event that brings performance arts, literature, and digital arts to children. The money donated goes towards subsidised tickets for schools, and free tickets for teachers, special needs assistants, as well as children and parents from disadvantaged communities.
The festival ran in Galway from Friday 13 October until Sunday 22 October.