A Traveller’s Guide To Turkish Dogs – Q Theatre: Oct 18, 2022

A Traveller’s Guide to Turkish Dogs is a hilarious shaggy dog story whilst also being a tall tale of Homeric proportions. Made even more engaging by the fact that the narrative is from the true adventures of Kiwi Barnaby’s backpack global wandering.

Players: Barnaby Olson, Stevie Hancox-Monk, Tess Sullivan, Sepelini Mua’au.                                    Director: Jonathan Price

The story comes from Barnaby Olson. As part of his extensive travels as a young Kiwi abroad, he finds himself in a picturesque fishing village on the Anatolian coast of Turkey. The back-story opens the performance. In less than five minutes all the characters fill in the Odyssey of Barnaby to set the scene for the boat he finds himself living and working on in the local mooring.

The set, by Lucas Neal, looks like a fabulous tree-hut or spaceship-vessel built by imaginative kids. Where they can fantasize and play-act their adventures.

Director Jonathan Price, also one of the co-writers along with Olson, explains; A licence to play pretend. Work with metaphor and visual poetry. That’s what we’ve tried to do with “Turkish Dogs”.

Theatre has always been virtual reality experiences, as the performance bleeds out to encompass the audience. The music unobtrusively blends in to provide a mostly idyllic coastal village ambience. From Oliver Devlin, who also plays in Indie Pop band Hans Pucket.

Olson plays himself. The other three play multiple parts. Tess Sullivan is predominantly Ian, an archetypal, profane, rough-as- guts good bloke from Nelson. Whose boat is being worked on. It serves as the house they both dwell in. Bristles on the outside, a good heart inside.

Stevie Hancock-Monk does different accents but she is primarily Barnaby’s book-loving mother from Kerikeri who lends her sympathetic support as a picture-in-picture muse.

Sepelini Mua’au portrays a story-telling Turkish historian, a timeless old fisherman, a brash Seth Efrican and an Irishman trying to read James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

That remains impenetrable to me, but the play is possibly more like Ulysses, with its multiple perspectives, shifts in time, and merging dreams and legends into the glorious Present Time.

The historian regards them as such. The story of how wolves became dogs with human hearts. The story of the Wolf-Mother. The tribes who came to inhabit Anatolia. Not myths, history!

This introduces the Turkish dog, badly injured and whimpering when Barnaby finds him. Represented as a cardboard box. But with a child’s imagination he materialises into view, with Hancock-Monk as primary puppeteer. We see him trembling with fear, then timid, then playful.

Barnaby doesn’t realise his heart gets captured. But then it infects everyone including hard-as-nails Ian.

The odyssey then becomes how to get him back to New Zealand, and the tension mounts.

A Traveller’s Guide to Turkish Dogs is a very funny, Joycean-wide perspective of life as the journey, not the destination. Its former title was Turkish Dogs Are Racist. Because they befriend foreigners rather than natives.

Rev Orange Peel

Playing now through Sunday October 23rd at Q Theatre