Humanity Hallows Issue 6 Out Now
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By Salman Shaffi
Manchester’s HOME recently staged a performance of the Fringe First Award winning play Tank.
Set in the 1960s, Tank is inspired by the notorious Dolphin House experiments when, during the cold war space race, NASA began to fund research into communication with dolphins. As part of the experiment, Margaret Howe Lovatt volunteered to spend 24 hours a day in isolation with a dolphin named Peter. The research was far from conventional, with attempts to teach Peter English, dealing with his sexual urges and experiments with LSD just part of Margaret’s role.
Based on these bizarre real events, Tank is satirical and absurdly brilliant, with Breach Theatre demonstrating the absurdity of what will be done in the name of science and politics. Experiencing misogyny in a male dominated environment, Margaret attempts to communicate with Peter, her hilarious repetitions of “Helloooo” and “Ball” showing the superficiality of the experiment.
Fragmentation furthers the sense of hilarity in the performance while also carrying tension. A video screen above the stage adds to the fragmented nature of the stories told below, while a video of Peter stares at the audience in a loop, overlooking the on-stage hilarity. A mixture of comedy and unease continues as the performers discuss if a description of Margaret’s legs, or describing her as a cowboy, is important to the exploitation of intelligent life on earth: misuse of scientific research on animals and agricultural industry cloaked in the hilarity of masturbation jokes.
Tank also feeds into a sense of psychological horror as the dolphins are presented through human actors, who move in and out of being either human or animal. Therefore, when pain and frustration are enacted, we hear the sounds of Peter’s distress processed through an incredible sound design which provides a strange dolphin like voice.
Ultimately, it is not only the captivity of dolphins at the heart of Tank but constraints around humans, who move from the front of the stage to the tank for water throughout the play, and whose offices are transformed into a tank.
For more information about upcoming events at HOME, visit www.homemcr.org