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Rescued dog Archie leaves hard-knock life behind as star of Annie

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Rescue dog Archie who will play Toto in the Wizard of Oz at the Theatre in the Mill Newtownabbey pictured with new owner Julie Morris .

Rescue dog Archie who will play Toto in the Wizard of Oz at the Theatre in the Mill Newtownabbey pictured with new owner Julie Morris .

Rescue dog Archie who will play Toto in the Wizard of Oz at the Theatre in the Mill Newtownabbey.

Rescue dog Archie who will play Toto in the Wizard of Oz at the Theatre in the Mill Newtownabbey.

Rescue dog Archie who will play Toto in the Wizard of Oz at the Theatre in the Mill Newtownabbey pictured with new owner Julie Morris .

Canine stars have often stolen the limelight of many an actor.

Now a little dog rescued from a motorway verge is set to join that illustrious list as he returns to centre stage in his second Belfast theatre production.

Archie, a terrier cross-breed, was found wandering close to Dublin's M50 motorway - one of Ireland's busiest roads - last year.

After being rescued and his whereabouts advertised, no one came forward to claim him.

The person who found him contacted friend Julie Morris and since then Archie has been part of the family at their home in Bloomfield, east Belfast.

And having made his debut in Fortwilliam Musical Society's production of The Wizard Of Oz last year as Dorothy's beloved Toto, Archie is again beguiling audiences at The Mac in a National Stage School production of Annie in which he plays the orphan's canine companion Sandy.

Archie's story was highlighted in the Belfast Telegraph last year.

Julie said: "The National Stage School saw him in the Telegraph when he played Toto and asked if they could see him to see if he was suitable to play Sandy in Annie.

"I took him there and told them he was both child-proof and audience-proof, but I heard nothing from them until the show was nearly ready to begin.

"And now he's been doing matinees and night performances and really loves it."

Archie's ability to interact with both the actors on stage and the audience is all the more remarkable because he isn't trained.

The role of Annie in this production is also played by four different girls because of the strains associated with over-performing. Not that it appears to matter to Archie, who is in the role at any given time.

"He's supposed to run across the stage when the 'dog catcher' takes him, but if he doesn't feel like running they carry him," added Julie.

"There are different people playing the roles each time but it doesn't bother him - he still acts the same.

"Then at the interval he meets and greets all the kids in the theatre.

"Stardom definitely isn't going to his head. It doesn't cause him any stress. As I am speaking to you now, he is crying to get out the door and get going."

You can catch Archie at The Mac up until this Sunday.

Belfast Telegraph