Blog by Anna Harriott Artistic Director of Tall Tree Theatre, associate artist at Forest Forge Theatre.

As part of the New Forest Arts Festival 2017 we performed Shackleton at Forest Forge a couple of weeks back. It was one of many events, shows and workshops going on and it was lovely to be back in the building, rehearsing in their fab theatre space and catching up with the team.

Shackleton is a show with live music about an adventurous dog who, by being brave, helps his owner to rediscover adventure. The idea for the show was sparked two years ago when my family and I found a dog. He had a tag so we rang his owner who told us he was called Shackleton, had escaped, travelled for miles and that her Dad was on his way to collect him. From then on the idea of an adventurous dog kept expanding in my mind until I wrote the script.  (You can read the full story of what inspired Shackleton here!). Two years on, with the show beginning its second tour, it felt right to get back in touch with Shackleton’s owners and invite them and their explorer dog to a show.shack

They’re a wonderful (and adventurous!) family who welcomed me into their home, recounted tales of their dog’s rogue tendencies and said yes to seeing the show. And so it came to be, with no guarantee Shackleton wouldn’t bark, get on stage or have a pee on the set, that the family came to Forest Forge to watch the story that was inspired by their escapee hound.

As it turns out Shackleton was as good as gold! He looked a little shocked when we started singing but soon settled down to enjoy the show. It was very special to look out into the audience and see him there, his ears pricking up when we said ‘dog’ or called his name!

Having a dog in the building created a lovely atmosphere and people stayed after the show to chat and meet both the real and puppet Shackletons. At one point we thought the real Shackleton had escaped but he was found in the foyer!

shack1As the audience headed off for a stomp in the forest we packed up the van and pootled back towards Salisbury. Halfway home we caught a glimpse of another escapee dog running through the grass, towards the road. We thought we were imagining in but we turned around and saw him precariously crossing the A338. Pulling over we got out, called to him and he bounded towards us and jumped in the van.

He had no collar so we had to work a little harder than the last time to find his owner but we managed to reunite them after a few hours.

We’re now calling ourselves Tall Tree Theatre aka Tall Tree Dog Rescue Service.

Anna Harriott, June 2017

Find out more about Tall Three Theatre here.