Monday, October 17, 2016

Theatre: Tank (★★★)

Chaos Ensemble
Written and directed by Daley King
Designed by Sara Chirichilli
Lighting designer Scott McArdle
Performed by Nick Maclaine, Izzy McDonald, Geordie Crawley and Tristan McInnes
Blue Room Theatre
Until October 29

I’m not exactly allergic to allegory, but it is uncomfortable being in the same room as it. Especially if that room is a theatre.
And when, as per Tank’s publicity, “Three fish swim peacefully in an aquarium. When a fourth fish is introduced into the tank, their status quo is confronted and life begins to take a turn for the worse”, I can feel a rash coming on.
It continues: “The temperature rises, food is scarce, and a fight for survival begins. Primitive instincts are brought to the fore as the world they know collapses around them”. Uh oh – allegory AND dystopia. Someone pass the adrenaline.The good news is that, despite these portents of disaster, I escaped Tank relatively undistended (all right, I’ll stop with the smart-arse anaphylactic metaphors now), and that’s due to the show’s most appealing virtue; it’s lack of ambition.
I liked that the story – which, given the flimsy premise it sits on, can’t support much in the way of complexity or nuance – travels efficiently and straightforwardly from point A to its inevitable point B.
I also liked that it didn’t dawdle along the way; Tank may not be much more than a skit, but, thankfully, Daley King, who wrote and directed, didn’t try to make it much more than that. Its 45 minutes passed happily enough, and I dread to think what might have happened in the extra fifteen you’d need to bring it up to the standard one hour Fringe/Blue Room format.
It’s nicely staged on a raked sand floor with bits of aquarium paraphernalia (including an office water-cooler instead of an oxygen blower – hint, hint, allegory), and the anthropomorphism is handled neatly enough.
Nick Maclaine, as the fish whose incursion into the cozy hierarchy of the tank causes all sorts of difficulties, has a bad habit of being the best fish in some pretty small ponds, although Izzy McDonald as the sarky, passive aggressive boss fish gives him a decent run for his money. Geordie Crawley is okay without being memorable, but Tristan McInnes (who, a little mysteriously, is also in the later Blue Room show) really needs to find some range and authority to go with his energy if he’s to be convincing.
If Tank isn’t the best thing you’ll see this year, it shares that lack of distinction with plenty of other shows that had much more to work with, and made much less of their opportunity.

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