Westie's big adventure: Ollie lands the lead role as Snowy

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The Independent Culture

Just like any proud mother, Lizzie Law was delighted yesterday when her Ollie netted a leading role in a prestigious stage production in London.

"It is fantastic. We are all proud of him," she said fondly. "The only problem is that I'm not sure whether he gets paid in chocolate chips or Bonios."

For Ollie is a 17-month-old white West Highland terrier who is to appear at the Barbican this Christmas as Tintin's right-hand dog, Snowy.

He landed the role - to be shared with two other "Westies" - after a rather rapid audition in south London, beating off competition from a Jack Russell clearly hoping to pull the wool over the casting director's eyes.

Lively and cheeky just like any teenager - which is what he will soon be in human years - Ollie was raring to go after his success.

He will star as Snowy in the Young Vic theatre company's new staging of Tintin in Tibet - one of Herge's famous stories of the quiff-haired boy reporter.

For Mrs Law, an office manager from south London with three teenage children, the casting of Ollie is entirely appropriate. "We are all big Tintin fans - I grew up loving Tintin, as did my children. I'm as excited about Ollie getting the role as anyone would be for a success for any member of the family - whether it's children or dogs. And Ollie is very much a family member."

Invited because of Mrs Law's dog-walking friendship with another Westie owner among the Young Vic's staff, Ollie was one of 10 dogs who turned up for the auditions yesterday morning at the company's rehearsal studios in south London.

Amid the yelping and yapping and barking, the dogs were put through their paces so those most suitable for a thespian breakthrough could be identified.

The others chosen were Chester, who, fortunately, belongs to one of the theatre staff and Lily, owned jointly by William Gutterson and his niece, Ella O'Brien, 11.

The three dogs are expected to rotate the role, the same principle normally applied to child actors.

The production is based on Tintin in Tibet, said to be Herge's most personal story, and will run at the Barbican from 29 November to 21 January. It is directed by Rufus Norris, who was behind last year's acclaimed production of Sleeping Beauty.

Mr Gutterson, an American resident in London, said: "I'm just a stage mother, really. I just ferry her [Lily] around the theatrical world, where she had lots of contacts, although this is her first foray into actually acting. She heard about this through her friend who played Lady in the film of 101 Dalmatians." He added: "She was learning her lines all weekend. And she will be paid in doggy treats."

The role is not, it has to be said, up there with, say Hamlet, as one of the more arduous in the theatrical world.

Snowy, as a dog, has to come onstage at the start, accompanying Tintin, and then appear briefly at the end. During the bulk of the performance Snowy is actually played by an actor, wearing a Snowy-style suit. He is not expected to be paid in dog biscuits.

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