“Don’t even think in your own language. English, all the time!” says Margaret Lovatt, a volunteer researcher in a NASA-funded project to teach Peter, a dolphin how to mimic and understand English.
Led by John C Lilly, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology, a dolphinarium was built and communication ‘training’ started. In a series of communication experiments – Margaret would live with Peter for ten weeks in isolation on the first floor of the flooded laboratory in an attempt to teach him English.
This series of events actually happened in the 1960’s and was later made into a BBC documentary, The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, which formed the inspiration for this bizarre but nevertheless captivating performance piece from Breach Theatre.
Part verbatim. Part satire. Part experiment with narrative. The only tape recordings of the experiments are fragmented and sodden (they have to be baked before they can be heard) which means that the four performers construct the details in the story as it plays in front of the audience. They interrupt and argue over the details in the story – filling in the gaps as they go. The two male performers seem to get highly enthused by the woman-masturbates-dolphin narrative but the female performers stand their ground aligning the relationship akin to that between a farmer and his cattle.
Breach have expanded an incredibly rich metaphor in Tank. Both Peter the dolphin and Margaret the volunteer were positioned in the midst of an awkward situation. Remembering the social backdrop of the 1960’s – the dolphin whose needs are inferior to those demands of a human; together with the woman who is seen as subservient to a male scientist. Tank is about colonisation. Intelligently, Breach fire up the synapses and leave the audience to explore the themes and their beliefs around this themselves.
Funny, dark and brilliantly pitched. Breach’s use of sound, film and stylised movement all contribute in exposing the result of legitimising our actions against others in the name of science, humanity and the struggle for power.