Belfast Telegraph

Archie the dog makes his debut in The Wizard of Oz just months after he was rescued from a busy motorway

By Cate McCurry

Archie the rescue dog - who hit the headlines after he was found wandering down a busy motorway - is set for stardom after making his acting debut.

The stray's life was in danger as he was spotted alone at a service station close to one of Ireland's busiest roads - Dublin's M50 motorway - before he was plucked to safety and taken in by an east Belfast family.

Months later his new family put him forward for one of the biggest canine roles.

And last night 18-month-old Archie appeared on stage as Toto in a production of The Wizard Of Oz by Fortwilliam Musical Society.

Archie's owner Julie Morris, a former dog trainer from Bloomfield, explained that treats and bribery helped throughout the rehearsals but they were prepared for any glitches in the opening night's performance.

"He's such a wee character that he's liable to do something stupid, but he has been fairly good during rehearsals," she said. "The lights do panic him a bit but he's doing OK."

Julie said that during the play Archie - as Toto - is warned not to pinch a sausage off a barbecue, but does it anyway.

"I think he's a bit worried but he's not doing anything wrong, he's perhaps a bit hesitant," she said.

"He's never been trained; it's bribery and corruption.

So I carry treats and once he catches on what you want, that's him, he will be happy to do it. It's about reassuring him.

"The problem is that he does like the Wicked Witch of the West more than he likes the treats, because she would often sit with him and pet him.

"We also got him a red glittery collar to match Dorothy's shoes so he will look well on stage.

"He only has one chance to get ready and do it right the first time.

"I don't know if this is his last performance but we'll see how it goes."

Fortwilliam chairperson Tony Young said: "Archie has been working very hard in the rehearsal room but it's very different when we throw in lights and smoke and the audience so it's all been very interesting.

"One of the key things is that his owner Julie has been very supportive and that has been a big part of it and helped Archie along too.

"As the four principal characters, we have really got to know and love him. In all the rehearsals I have never heard him bark - he's the most laid-back dog I have ever met.

"We've been really looking forward to the show as it's a very different show for us. They say never work with children or animals, and we have got them both in this production.

"It should be interesting and we are looking forward to getting on the Yellow Brick Road."

The Wizard Of Oz is at the Theatre At The Mill, Newtownabbey, and runs until Saturday.

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