‘Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life’. A quote from the scientist Albert Schweitzer, not the scientist featured in the play, Tank, but a scientist with a much better sense of moral integrity than the characters on stage.
Tank is an extraordinary piece of theatre, not simply because Breach theatre company are choosing to perform this weighty piece of drama in the 10:30am slot, but because it imaginatively explores a time period, a set of characters and the nature of scientific research with sensitivity and verve.
In 1965 a research study begin in America. It’s aim was to teach dolphins how to speak English. The point? In the frenzy of the space race NASA wanted to trial the possibility of communicating with aliens. What we see in this play is that communication is wholly resisted, not by the dolphins but by the human who were unwilling to acknowledge the cruel and futile nature of their experiments.
The story itself is fascinating and worth watching just in itself, but Breach use a mixture of physical theatre, video projection and voice modulation software (to sound like dolphins) to fully communicate the story. They draw out so many ideas; the nature of knowledge- how we know anything, how we theorise and form opinions, and the fine line between resilience and mindless belligerence.
It’s all done with a strong sense of humour- the cast bounce lines off one another with alacrity, especially during the debate over the difference between dolphin love and dolphin masturbation. There’s also some stunning interpretative dance used to represent the interaction between humans and dolphins- think of the dance scene in the film Deus ex Machina. When the play reaches its powerful conclusion the audience is left with lots of layers of meaning to unfurl; the piece is a great example of polished politicised theatre.
Final word: this unusual and finely honed piece of theatre is not be missed. Tank is definitely worth getting out of bed for.
Tank plays at the Pleasance Dome until August 20th and performances begin at 10.30am