by Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Please enjoy the truly true story of a small boy spending his days chained to a lamp post outside his parent’s one-room slum somewhere between Shanghai and Collingwood.

It’s a show about the poverty. Bekoz you love the poverty. It fetishizes the poverty bekoz you love the fetish. We’ve made the poverty a commodity. If tickets are $1000 the show would be a luxury commodity. Like a Porsche or a diamond.

Will any funds made off the play go to charity to help the boy or others like him? They won’t but if you pretend they are then you feel good. Do you feel good if you pretend? See you feel bad about the poverty but you feel good about feeling bad about the poverty, and even more good about feeling. So it’s working already.

DOGMEAT is the abandoned baby of verbatim and documentary theatre, commercial news broadcast and dogme95 films. The truly true story of a small boy spending his days chained to a lamp post outside his parent’s one room slum.

by Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Premiere Presentation
La Mama Courtyard
Sep-Oct 2010

Re-Booted Production
Perth Institute of Contemporary Art
Jan-Feb 2014

TUES 04-SAT 08 FEB 2014
PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Art)


SEP 23 – OCT 10 | 10pm
rain, hail or shine
La Mama Theatre (courtyard)

WRITER tobias manderson-galvin
DIRECTOR jessica tuckwell
george banders AS mother / lucky / the man;
conor gallacher AS father / coyote
matt furlani AS dogmeat
assistant director holly dyroff
production manager simonne johansen

2014 Reviews

“4.5 Stars… A savage beauty… Dogmeat is as moving as it is horrifying.”

“It’s darkly comic, ugly, cynical, anarchic, violent, sexually-charged and in-your-face. I had the thrilling and quintessentially theatrical experience of being on the edge of my seat, continually not knowing what was going to happen next.”


2010 Reviews

“finely wrought, resonant text”

“impressively novel… a kind of abstract stephen sewell…the performances from Banders, Furlani and Gallacher are especially confident and rank as festival highlights”

“the writing is sharp, the performances are strong.”

“This is what happens when you don’t just let the bad stuff in, you welcome it and actively get off on it.”


the story

Once upon a time… A boy lives with his mother, father and little sister in a house in the country. They work hard to stay alive and look after each other. And yet it is not enough. With the advent of the ill-winds of industry and change; one sad day this ordinary working family is forced to leave the country and head to the city to find work…The family settles into a humiliating one room slum in the worst neighbourhood they can find. It is all they can afford. And still, even in this ramshackle shanty town, living on morsels the rats reject: Still they find that city living is expensive beyond their wildest horrors. Yet the price that is to come they willl never think to imagine. The father is unskilled in the labors of modern industry, so he begins illegally operating a taxi cab by day and night. The mother too, though disabled, is driven into work. Each evening, leaving the children alone, whilst her husband cruises the highways and by-roads, she walks the streets to pay their way.

With the parents at work the boy and his sister keep themselves amused amongst the filthy washing and safe utop a pile of broken, old concrete stairs. They play as all children play. And then one day the sister is gone. Stolen for sex. Organs. In the end maybe it doesn’t matter. She is no more. And she isn’t the only one.

All though the neighbourhood families arrive home only to suffer the same thing. Screams are thick as smog. Plenty of other children go missing. Plenty of other families have suddenly empty nests. So the mother and father do what any right minded parents would do to protect their remaining child. They chain him to a lamp post. This is his story.

And then… Two boys… Stand in an alleyway holding a stick at a dead dog. Neither boy has ever seen anything so god awfully horrifying and neither wants to show it. Urging each other to pull it apart; To have a go; They examine it. They share the results. And then they run away. It’s then that they meet our hero. And make plans to get the hell away. No-one knows where to. They just know it has to happen….

An Essay on the Reporting of the Incident

Swollen in head, weak in legs, sharp in tongue but empty in belly.

This essay will attempt to discuss and analyse the discourses of childhood used in a report published in the UK newspaper; The Daily Mail. In early 2010, the Chinese toddler Lao Lu was repeatedly chained to a lamppost outside a shopping centre in suburban Beijing whilst his rickshaw driving father and mentally handicapped garbage collecting mother scoured the city for work. His Father told the newspaper Lao Lu was chained for his own protection. Leaving him alone in the tiny family home was out of the question, due to his parents very real fears that he would be kidnapped by child snatchers to whom Lao Lus sister has already fallen prey. Lao Lu being too young for school (2 years old) and the family being too poor to afford childcare (the family were disallowed state subsidised care because they are not native to the region; migrating from the Szechuan province in search of work), Lao Lus father felt that he had no choice but to chain the toddler securely to a lamp post, while he and his wife made a living (Mail Online Feb 2010).On first glance, one could be forgiven for understanding this article to be enlightening the reader on a discourse of cultural relativism, by gesturing to an apparent gap that lies between ideas of childhood held in China and in the UK where the article was written. The article presents China as a land that defies every concept of childhood the West has, by allowing a child to be put in this position, and shows the West writing about this incident with shocked and rather condescending cultural superiority. One only has to look at the headline of the article: Childcare, Chinese style (Mail Online Feb 2010). It is obvious that by childcare the Daily Mail is inferring quite the reverse, or the lack thereof. But is there a childhood presented here that is entirely specific to time, place and culture that confounds any discourse of childhood being universally understood as a period of innocence in everyones lives? (White 1999, p.133) Perhaps, on the surface, it breaks with the UN convention on childs rights, particularly Article 32 which states… State parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the childs education or be harmful to the childs health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development (White 1999, p.133).

Although Lao Lu is not working explicitly, it could be said that he is being exploited by work, as his fathers need to work is hindering his health and well being by being placed in the street, alone and chained up. One could easily say that this is the complete reverse of what sociologist Viviana Zelizer has called the priceless child, the child whose value stood apart from the economy, who literally had no price attached to his or her being(Fass 2003, p.966). But I believe that the situation presents Lao Lu as exactly that, a priceless child, and that his parents idea of childhood is one that flies closer to the Western idea of childhood as a time of innocence and vulnerability, than the Daily Mail is willing to admit (Fass 2003, p.967).

The method in which Lao Lus father has decided to protect his child could be seen not as a sign of his divergent view on childhood, but as his adherence, to the best of his abilities, to it. The reason perhaps why one is instinctively led to condemn the actions of Lao Lus parents is because we are seeing Western ideas of childhood not disregarded, but viewed through the challenges of poverty, priority, necessity and economics that Lao Lu and his parents have to face every day (Fass 2003, p.968);(Russell, Harris & Gockel 2008, p.97). Also we see the Wests idealization of the private sphere of the home, which according to Jeni Harden, has been a central feature of (western) modernity (Harden 2000, p.47), inverted as it is in Lao Lus case not a safe place. Lao Lus fathers idea of the childhood that he wants his son to have might be in line with what Fass describes as a childhood freed from labour and devoted to individual development and play; a protected period of innocence sheltered from the cares of adults(Fass 2003, p.965), i.e. a universal experience. But cultural specifics dictate the situation in which Lao Lu can even begin to enjoy this. Fass writes that every society must have and raise children to survive, and seeks to protect them in a fashion, and what is displayed in this article is just that, a father protecting his child in a fashion (Fass 2003, p.964). This article shows us the interplay between the universal experience of childhood and the culturally specific, not their dichotomy.

This sad story still challenges the Western idea of the public/private dichotomy, with the public being unsafe for our children and the private being safe and synonymous with ideas of the home (Harden 2000, p.44). Instead, to protect his child, the father is relying on the realm of the sociable, as a corridor between the public and the private where there is a parochial social order of communality that will protect the child from further harm (Harden 2000, p.45). It is these points of cultural specificity that are foreign to Western conceptions of childhood and serve to possibly blind to the reader of this article to the sad reality of a parents attempt to preserve a childs universal experience of childhood with the only means available.

The discourses on childhood in this article are superficially ones of cultural relativity and the Western medias assumption of historical and cultural superiority when it comes to an understanding of childhood. But when one delves beneath the articles initial polarisation of Western and developing world norms, one discovers the discourse of childhood approached as a universal experience. The experience of the childhood itself however, is dependent on cultural and economic specifics.



Fass, P 2003, Children and Globalization, Journal of Social History, Vol.36, No.4, pp.963-977

Harden, J 2000, Theres no place like home: The Public/Private distinctions in Childrens theorizing of risk and safety, Childhood, Vol.7, pp.43-59

Holloway, S & Valentine, G 2000, Spatiality and the New Social Studies of Childhood, Sociology, Vol.34, pp.763 783

Lancey, D. F. 2008, The anthropology of childhood: Cherubs, Chattels, Changelings, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp.1-23

Liebel, M 2003, Working Children as Social Subjects: the Contribution of Working Childrens Organizations to Social Transformations, Childhood, No.10, pp.265-285

Mail Online Feb 2010, Childcare, Chinese style: Rickshaw driver chains two-year-old son to a post while he’s at work, viewed at, viewed 15 May 2010 Redmond, G 2008, Child poverty and child rights: Edging towards a definition, Journal of Children and Poverty, Vol 14, No.1, pp.63-82

Russell, M,. Harris, B & Gockel, A 2008, Parenting in Poverty: Perspective of high-risk parents, Journal of Children and Poverty, vol.14, No.1, pp.83-98

Ryan P 2008, How New is the New Social Study of Childhood? The Myth of a Paradigm Shift, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol.38, No.4, pp.553-573

White, B 1999, Defining the Intolerable: Child Work, Global Standards and Cultural Relativism, Childhood, Vol.6, pp.133-144

Manderson-Galvin is one of the inky-black swarm of writers for what I think of as Melbourne’s Gutter Theatre….Tobias Manderson-Galvin is the sexually charged troubadour of the scene, the erotic muse of degradation and destruction. DAVID FINNIGAN [DIRECTOR OF CRACK THEATRE FESTIVAL]
In June 2010, with DOGMEAT producer Glyn Roberts, Tobias co-founded Melbourne’s only dedicated playwright’s theatre: MKA. He is currently Artistic Director. Tobias is working on a Bachelor of Social Science: Cultural Theory and a Diploma of Arts: Theatre Studies at Swinburne.

Jessica graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2007 with a Graduate Diploma in Dramatic Art (Directing) after completing a B. Arts (Philosophy) in 2004 at the University of Sydney. She is currently the Director in Residence for Bell Shakespeare. This year Jessica directed Words They Make With Their Mouths for Bambina Borracha and the Adelaide Fringe Festival, then as part of ATYPS Under The Wharf season and also showing at the Melbourne Fringe. In 2009 she directed Ruby Moon and The Return for Devil May Care and Newtown Theatre, Lost on Monster Island for NIDA Open Program and Debra Oswalds The Peach Season. She was the Assistant Director on The Removalists at Sydney Theatre Company and was invited to be a tutor at World Interplay Playwrights Festival 2009. In 2008 Jessica directed The Soldier and The Thief Wait on a Bridge Over the River Thames While Oblivion Waves Hello at The Old Fitzroy Theatre as well as Noelle Janaczewskas Duet With a Dictionary, which won the Movie Extra Judges Award at the Short and Sweet Gala Final. At NIDA she directed Little Hitlers Ode to an Austrian Bentwood by Maxine Mellor and adapted and directed new Australian work On Top of the Mountain. For the Australian Theatre for Young People in 2006 Jessica was the assistant director on Craving, a devised project performed in the Richard Wherrett Studio, Sydney Theatre.

Raised in Tasmania, Matt spent five years performing with the Helen O’Grady Youth Theatre. Later, as a member of the Old Nick Co. ensemble, he appeared in The Devil’s Shorts One-Act Play series and was awarded their annual Scholarship for Young Artists. He also combines acting with his other great love, music, performing extensively with the musical comedy trio Wangle. In 2006 he appeared in Experimentos, nominated Best Play at the Deloraine Play Festival, and as part of the 2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In 2009 Matt graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts with a Bachelor in Dramatic Art. His roles have included Astrov in Uncle Vanya, Sal in Division Street, and Son in Red, Black & Ignorant. Matt’s film credits include Autobus; an independent feature film, to be released later this year. He was last seen in Manbeth for 45downstairs.

George is a VCA Acting Graduate with a drivers’ license in ‘Car’. Whilst he is only moderately skilled at badminton you ought to be aware that he is in possesion of a high-skill level at snow skiiing. He has a playing range of 16-25; Man-Woman and in the past he very much looked forward to the future.

” impressively dark and brooding ” ADELAIDE ADVERTISER “Conor Gallacher is superb” MAGGIE MOORE Most recently appearing in Sunny Side Up for Sample Theatre, and previously Genesis and The Inferno for the same company, the latter of which he was a co-writer, he has also worked in productions for Theatre In Bars and Melbourne University. He featured in the short film Spit, and will appear in the upcoming feature film Silencium. He has been studying film and television performance with The Actors Coach workshop programme for the past 18 months.

…Roberts is the sadistic architect of onstage suffering… DAVID FINNIGAN [CRACK THEATRE FESTIVAL] Glyn Roberts is perhaps best known as playwright of ‘This is Set in the Future’, The Jaundice Table’ and the soon to be produced ‘Shitzerland’. In June 2010, with DOGMEAT playwright Tobias Manderson-Galvin, Glyn co-founded Melbourne’s only dedicated playwright’s theatre: MKA Richmond. He is currently General Manager ~ Head of Programming. Roberts is in the process of completing a BA: Politics at Monash University.

What began as an obsession for media studies in high school has evolved into a passion for all things event management. Simonne has completed a Diploma of Screen Production at Footscray City College, and is currently undertaking an Advanced Diploma of Event Management at Swinburne TAFE. More recently she has worked in venue co-ordination at a number of highly recognised events, including the 2010 Adelaide Fringe Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and Melbourne International Film Festival. And now… Dogmeat…

holly |hälē| noun A bits-and-pieces girl with who is engrossed with stories and games. See also childish, grotesque. Ie. Holly collects stories for Baristas in exchange for free strong-soy impressionist-velvet lattes. Holly has been fiddling with art-and gooseberries-since partaking in the VCA Dramatic Arts Foundations (2009). Since then she has worked as an intern with Arena Theatre Company on Declan Greenes The Moth (2009) and worked as a freelance dramaturge. Holly was co-artistic director of Apollo Theatre company (2009-10), and had recently been mucking about with the St. Martins Youth Theatre Performers Ensemble. • Holly likes: red framed glasses (minus lenses), which have magnified her grip on absurdity. Holly dislikes: Writing in third person about herself. For a woman who indulges her split personality disorder, three is an unwelcome crowd.

original source
DOGMEAT is based on a true story. In early 2010 Playwright T. Manderson-Galvin witnessed an horrific story on a commercial news broadcast. The genesis of DOGMEAT had occured. Whilst we are unable to bring you the glamorous and tacky tele-journalism that spawned the writing we instead present you with the article that initially spread the story across the globe. We’ve included the original captions as well. We then offer to you, as an accompaniment to the play, an analytic essay from DOGMEAT producer Glyn Roberts on the article itself. Whilst this is by no means an exploration of all the issues raised by the story, or even all those that appear in DOGMEAT, we offer you this as a means of introduction to the issues included and to the various modes of discourse surrounding the material.“No escape: The padlock securing the toddler”

Childcare, Chinese style: Rickshaw driver chains two-year-old son to a post while he’s at work At first sight it seems the ultimate in child cruelty – a two-year-old boy chained to a lamp post to stop him getting away. Yet his parents say this is the only way they can guarantee not to lose him. His father Chen Chuanliu works as an unlicensed rickshaw cyclist in Beijing, taking fares all over the city, while the boy’s disabled mother collects rubbish at the roadside. They say they secured their son, Lao Lu, with a padlock around his ankle because his four-year-old sister Ling was ‘stolen’ from them last month. Child snatching is rife in China, where strict laws govern the size of families. Concerned passers-by spotted the shackled toddler outside Huaguan Shopping Mall in Liangxiang. They reported his father to the authorities, who yesterday ordered him to remove the chain although it was not clear what arrangements he would make in future. There is no nursery place for Lao Lu because his 42-year-old father is a migrant worker from another province, Szechuan, and therefore does not qualify for state help. The family live in one room, 9ft by 8ft. Chen said he could not afford to pay for childcare on his earnings of £4.50 a day and had refused offers of ‘a lot of money’ to give his son up for adoption. ‘My wife cannot take care of him and I have to work to support my family. So I chain him to a pole when I have a fare. ‘I don’t even have a picture of my daughter to use for a missing-person poster. I cannot lose my son as well.’

“Chained: Two-year-old Chen Chuanliu is regularly padlocked to a tree while his rickshaw driver father touts for customers in Beijing “

“Chen Chuanliu insists chaining up son Lao Lu is for his own good”


National Playwright Competition
St Martins 2010

Best Theatre Award
+ Arts Editor Award
Perth Fringe World 2014