A Travellers Guide to Turkish Dogs - Review

Review by Ken Keys for Theatreview 

What a treat punters are in for at the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival, if A Traveller’s Guide to Turkish Dogs is any indication!

Performed at the beautifully restored Hawke’s Bay Opera House – now Toitoi: Hawke's Bay Arts & Events Centre – a near capacity audience is captivated by this inventive, high-paced production. 

A typical OE-bound Kiwi (Barnaby Olsen) recalls, and then relives, his eventful world-wide backpacking adventure, mostly in a small Turkish fishing village. There he learns about Turkish ‘history’ from an academic eccentric, learns the language and mixes with colourful characters of various nationalities.

The spine of the story, however, is his developing relationship with a stray, and badly injured, dog, from which ensues a very comic but human and poignant, Epic.  He can’t leave the dog to return home. NZ MPI, while it bizarrely accepts Bulgarian or Romania canines, will not allow in Turkish dogs! “Not on the list,” they say.  His solution sees the epic journey crank up, with corrupt border guards, bribery and, eventually, the beloved animal quarantined for 3 months in Levin.

The super-fast shapeshifting production creates a momentum that keeps the audience engaged throughout, with multiple character changes by Stevie Hancox-Monk, Andrew Paterson and Tess Sullivan – facilitated by a seemingly rickety fishing boat-type construction, on, in, and around which all the fast-moving action takes place, with entries, trapdoor-pop-ups, curtained ‘windows’... Good comic stuff!

A play about a dog HAS to have a dog!  This is cleverly achieved by manipulating a simple cardboard box as ‘The Dog’.  And then ... (spoiler averted).

My only reservation is the suitability of Toitoi: Hawke's Bay Arts & Events Centre for this show. So fast is the delivery of the dialogue that people at the back of the stalls or in the circle have trouble catching it. A smaller venue might have been more suitable.  

Nevertheless, this “story of two strays” is an inventive, warm and totally original piece of Theatre! 

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