Reviewed by Rhys Tarling
TANK is a curious production. The adorably whimsical set design (Sara Chirichilli) and the candy-coloured lighting (Scott McArdle) bely a show that’s agitated, dark, and filled with dread. The basic premise: four fish (Izzy McDonald, Geordie Crawley, Tristan McInnes, and Nick Maclaine) occupy a tiny tank that’s fast becoming uninhabitable.
Exacerbated by terrible conditions like low oxygen and claustrophobia, and coupled with each fish being devoured by their own neurosis, that by the time an inevitable murder occurs – a gruesome scene upon where every excruciating gasp and moan is lingered on to uncomfortable effect – it’s a relief. But of course the relief eventually gives way to quiet musings on the futility of survival if survival comes down to living in a cage forever. To steal a quote from a Kurt Vonnegut work, “So it goes.”
Writer/director Daley King has crafted an ambitious play, chronicling no less than the total breakdown of a fragile society (albeit a small one) and the existential anxiety that comes with an indifferent or absent god. The themes are woven in with a kind of half-hearted inelegance, but on the other hand, that half-hearted inelegance serves to fuel TANK‘s inherent cruelty and thesis that for many creatures, life is brutal, stupid, and without answers.
So on its strange terms, TANK succeeds and the material is elevated by the great turns from all four of the actors. Nick Maclaine as Finn, the new and most unwelcome occupant, is the standout here. He comes across as both inquisitively affable and genuinely menacing, using those dark-eyed puppy dog saucers of his to command your attention for an entire scene.
Ostensibly billed as a dark comedy, TANK definitely favours ‘dark’ over ‘comedy’, although there are some delightful comic bits. For instance, when one fish, in hushed, scared tones, talks of the humans violently tapping on the glass, all four actors stop and gaze at the audience with a vacant hundred yard stare; a nice Brechtian touch. When the fourth fish is introduced into the tank, the ‘fish handshake’ greeting that ensues is genuinely startlingly funny. A few more surreal touches like that would have done much to alleviate the grimness that sometimes threatens to be overbearing.
TANK runs at The Blue Room Theatre until 29 October at 8:30 pm. For more information and tickets, visit the Blue Room website here.