CHAOS Ensemble makes its main season debut at The Blue Room with the aquatic thriller-comedy TANK, written and directed by Daley King.
The show serves as a warning to humans about how we face global warming; it imagines the story of four fish stuck together in an increasingly dirty and warm fish tank. The parable starts out benign enough, but eventually descends into chaos as the fish fight for space, food and resources. Sounds like something we humans would do, for sure.
Three fish are going about their daily activities: Jill (Izzy McDonald) and Dom (Geordie Crawley) are playing cards (Go Fish, of course), while Joe (Tristan McInnes) is doing some cleaning. They express anxiety about where their next meal might come from, about whether the humans outside care about them anymore, and they mildly squabble amongst themselves. Soon, a fourth fish is revealed; Finn (Nick Maclaine) has been lurking behind a bit of tank landscaping, and only Joe has noticed him there. Finn finally decides to introduce himself to the group, and things start to get a little tense.
Jill is clearly in charge, Dom is not a ‘dom’ at all, outwardly displaying all kinds of anxieties and deferring to Jill’s authority. Joe appears to keep his head down, focused on his work, but he also harbors all kinds of paranoia about what’s happening to their environment as well as a bit of resentment towards Jill. Finn probably isn’t what he seems, and has interest in gaining the upper hand as the newbie. Each fish has his or her own means of self-preservation, and their situation has the potential to get quite ugly as they vie for what little food gets dropped in, and as the tank’s filter begins to break down.
King’s premise is simple, classic, and presents endless possibilities for dramatic tension. The metaphor for global warming is fairly neatly woven in without hammering us over the head with a lot of ideology. The cast makes good time in setting up their characters and relationships efficiently, and King has struck an even balance in character types. There’s a bit of over-the-top delivery from McInnes – his energy overshoots the scene and the space at times. He’s balanced by the cool seething McDonald who never ever lets her emotions boil over, while Crawley’s willfully ignorant petulance serves to relieve pressure in the tank. Maclaine goes from nervous obsequiousness, to shifty, to ruthless, and ends up bewildered.
And the situation is bewildering. The drama that King has set up quite nicely simply quietly fizzles out. After a climax comes a long denouement that doesn’t appear to resolve much, and must conclude that King deliberately left the drama unfinished. A jarring music cue appears to signal the end, but the staging doesn’t provide a finale to clinch the deal.
But for downright fishiness, the design can’t be beat – the tank environment designed by Sara Chirichilli is effective, with sand covering the stage, a coral hideout made from what looks like painted spray-on foamy stuff, some green plastic strips hanging to simulate green plastic plants, jelly beans rigged to drop as food and other assorted clever props. It’s all lit by Scott McArdle’s vivid lights – blues and greens with refracted yellow beams, and some nice spot work to isolate certain objects or interactions. The designers manage to pack a lot in a really tight space in the corner of The Blue Room’s studio.
TANK doesn’t offer any answers or solutions to global warming, but it does caution us against turning into jerks as our environment slides past the tipping point.
The Blue Room Theatre and CHAOS ENSEMBLE present
by Daley King
Director Daley King
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
Dates: 11 – 29 October 2016
Tickets: $18 – $28