Reviews, News and Commentary

Foreign Canines: A Travellers Guide to Turkish Dogs

Reviewed by Malcolm Caldcer

A Travellers Guide to Turkish Dogs Photo:  Eleanor Strathern

A Travellers Guide to Turkish Dogs

Amulled Whine

By Barnaby Olson, Jonathan Price, Stevie Hancox-Monk, Andrew Paterson, and Tess Sullivan

Q Theatre Loft

Until 23 October

Reviewed by Malcolm Calder

What Can One Say

I got home after this performance, sat down at the keyboard and wondered what on earth I could write. 

Scratching my head, I figured I just might have to fall back on that old reviewer’s chestnut and outline the basic plot, but comprehensive advance publicity has already done so.  I could comment on the production values and skills this production demonstrates, but that would be an injustice to those who show them.  I could talk about or even ‘rate’ the performers, but they do so themselves far better than my words can. 

Suffice to say that director Jonathan Price has led this ensemble-devised work, built around a true story by Barnaby Olson, to create something that becomes an entity in itself.  We are interested, intrigued and ultimately enthralled.  And we go home feeling pretty damned good about the world in general.

Good successful theatre always requires two essential ingredients: it must tell a simple story well and it must enable a mutual trust between those on stage and their audience.

This story is a simple one.  Turkish Dogs is a can-do, make-it-up-as-we-go-along, truly gentle story of discovery and happenstance.  It’s a journey to which we can all relate whether boomer, parent or someone starting their OE.  Many of us have lived it – or dreamed of doing so, or at least a version of it.    It is peopled by characters we have all met, the majority of whom we like, the occasional one we detest and some we just chuckle quietly about. But we have all met ‘em. In this play they pop up throughout the journey – some more colourful than others, some more memorable.  And, after all, that’s what life is all about.  People.

The second essential is trust.  Any audience gives its trust to a cast that enables a story to be told.  And a cast trusts an audience to understand that story.  This giving of trust happens every time a play hits to the stage.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes less so.  And very, very occasionally it goes beyond trust, becomes immersive and both cast and audience become one, sharing the experience.  This production has mutual trust in spades.

This is only a small production that delivers on both counts yet somehow still manages to surprise. It should be mandatory for those with even the slightest interest in NZ theatre – and they should bring their non-theatre neighbours along as well.

My prediction: Turkish Dogs has legs and will go further.  At one point I felt it could work pretty well anywhere in the English-speaking world, even in different mediums, although I initially wondered about localising it a bit – you know, a few Australianisms here or the odd Englishism there.  But then I thought no.  It doesn’t need it.  It is a uniquely Kiwi story told in a uniquely contemporary way with not a shred of self-consciousness.  Yes, people elsewhere will get the accents.  If they don’t that’s their problem. Kiwi accents could even become a USP.

Finally, here’s a tip.  Get in well before the show starts.  You just might meet someone worth talking to.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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