In the 1960s, a scientist named Margaret Lovatt attempts on behalf of NASA to teach a dolphin called Peter to speak, in case aliens arrive and need to be communicated with. In the 1970s, another scientist named Irene Pepperberg begins teaching a parrot called Alex a vast vocabulary.
In the present day, an ordinary hetero couple named Kim and Keith tell us about themselves in perfectly unified voices. They’re very much in love, they say, gazing adoringly at one another; so it goes, until they fear their love may have stopped.
Performed by Kim Donohoe and Pete Lannon with wit and engaging composure, these three relationships are cycled through as exemplars of the processes of companionship with which humans find meaning and make life bearable.
Devised by the cast with dramaturg Xana Marwick, there’s an elevating spark about proceedings that is introduced not just by the capabilities of the actors, but also the precision of Ellie Dubois’ direction and the sci-fi atmospherics of Michael John McCarthy.
Yet the vibrant poignancy of some scenes (as well as the sheer weirdness of Margaret and Peter’s story, which those who have seen Breach Theatre’s Tank will be familiar with) is undercut by knockabout interludes such as the studied animals’ afterlife meeting, with both performers in novelty costume. There’s something sketch-like about the show’s format, and the themes it boldly grasps feel dropped before being explored to their full potential.