Tank

If there was one show I wished I’d seen in Edinburgh 2016, this was it.  Tank, from Breach, a story about experiments with a dolphin over fifty years ago.  A bizarre premise for a play, but of course it’s not just about that.  Really it’s about communication, sexual politics and how we might talk to aliens.  And it’s at HOME, so good to see the best of Edinburgh reaching Manchester theatre.  As I enter there’s a Chilean version of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love playing; different language, same themes.

Utilising a now well used technique of multiple storytellers recounting the same event to introduce doubt and imbalance, Tank tells the story of a woman without the required qualifications persuading a researcher to allow her to assist on experiments into how we might communicate with dolphins; the irony that English is the language of choice is not lost.  She thrives in the environment and does whatever needs doing to make contact with her dolphin, played by a cast member, making the sounds a dolphin would make.  She tries to make the dolphin speak her language through persuasion, repetition and reward.

Right from the start the point is made that the research was designed to allow humans to communicate with aliens – in English.  Later in the play the researcher says ‘he’s listening, he’s learning’.  Except of course that the communication is one way; we don’t listen.  And perhaps that’s the main theme here.  Whether it’s sexual politics, talking to dolphins, or carrying out research, we just don’t listen.  We talk, but we’re not heard.  It’s not until the familiar norms are removed that actually we realise that we don’t communicate with anyone very well at all.

And at what point can communication within a male/female relationship be non-sexual?  The play might be 1965 but the issues are current. Fascinating to watch, at times compelling, at other times quite disturbing and surreal, this is a powerful story well told using an interesting form that isn’t original but well applied here.  Well worth seeing.

photo by ‘The OtherRichard’

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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