Damn Tank, an entry in the Toronto Fringe Festival currently playing at the Factory Theatre Mainspace, provides an interesting glimpse into a future where death can be as much a blessing as continued life. This show by Another Creature Productions gives its audience a tantalizing taste of the lives of these future people, and leaves us wanting more.
Damn Tank is set in a dystopian 2216, when the dying cities are surrounded by sandy wastelands and ever more people are becoming infected with the inevitably lethal Sickness. Two women, the elderly Bonita and the younger Penelope, work as a team to offer euthanasia to these sufferers, bringing their helium tank (the “Damn Tank” of the title) and balloons to the going-away parties they throw for their clients. In this future, there is no Bill C-14, and assisted euthanasia is a terribly risky criminal act.
The close relationship of these two women is interrupted by the arrival of a third person, the handsome Byron, who complicates their plans for their future and each other. Bonita had wanted to retire, and Penelope did have a plan for a great robbery that would leave them set for life. Will Byron help them achieve these goals, or will he be their undoing?
This play is anchored by Ellen-Ray Hennessy’s performance as Bonita. She is luminous, energetic, and takes risks with a joie de vivre that lends itself as readily to the appreciation of antiques as to an effort at love. It was a joy to see Hennessy on the stage, dancing and singing and playing off the other actors. She has a great foil in Zenna Davis-Jones, who plays Bonita’s more stolid partner Penelope, more skeptical of her friend’s dreams and wanting a way out. Other actors, notably Russell Wiler playing Byron, do a great job of playing off against this central pair, all on a well-designed minimalist stage.
Damn Tank‘s script, written by Maaor Ziv and Taylor Hammond, may have been inspired by recent debates on euthanasia, but to their credit this is a play that does not simplify the situation. Damn Tank tries to evoke a future where no one has any easy answers or solutions, where the only thing that anyone can do is try to live as best one can, moment by moment, and mostly succeeds. This worked mostly to the advantage of the story with the exception of Byron and his mysteries, left almost too mysterious for the audience. How does he manage to convince two people rightfully concerned for their security to open up? It did not seem quite clear enough.
Damn Tank is a dramatic exploration of a functioning dystopia, with characters who come alive on the stage and a story that captures audiences with an oblique look at our world. It makes for a very memorable, and enjoyable, hour of theatre.
- Damn Tank is playing until July 7 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. (125 Bathurst Street)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Gunshots, Mature Language.
- This venue is not wheelchair-accessible.
- June 30th at 10:00 pm
- July 2nd at 3:30 pm
- July 3rd at 1:15 pm
- July 4th at 9:00 pm
- July 5th at 6:30 pm
- July 6th at 12:00 pm
- July 7th at 3:30 pm
Photo of Elley-Ray Hennessey, Russell Willer and Zenna Davis-Jones by Ashten Rikardo.