The Tank is described as a rollicking piece of Australiana with heart as it delves into the lives of the rural Carney family as seen through eldest son, Harold's, eyes. It tells the story of his mum, Dora, who battles  bushfires, police, councils, an empty water tank and a violent abusive husband all while raising six kids. The play celebrates the idea of family and spirit of place.

The music  by Mick Thomas (famous for his involvement with the 80's/90's Australian folk rock band, Weddings Parties Anything) is perhaps a little reminiscent of his early formative years in bush bands as it underpins the rural setting of The Tank admirably.

I spoke with The Tank director Craig Ryan to understand more about his attraction towards this relevant but, for the most part, neglected piece of Australian theatre.

The Tank by Steve Thomas (music by Mick Thomas) – not a play that is featured on many play bills around the traps even though it had quite a big tour around Victoria a couple of years ago. Can you talk a little about this play and what it is that drew you to it?

The story revolves around a family growing in tough conditions in Tasmania in recent times. The story focuses on the mother (Dora) and her eldest son(Harold). Harold runs wild and clashes with officialdom. The love between a mother and her son is always evident and the show has many funny as well as poignant moments.

I was first attracted to the play by the wonderful music of Mick Thomas, but the more I read it, the more I identified and came to care for all the characters and their stories.  

Given the particular requirements of this script, what was the audition process like in terms of what skills you were particularly looking for from the auditioning actors?

The script calls for the two main characters to sing a few songs, as well as deliver a few soliloquies directly to the audience, in the manner of a narrator. So, as well as looking for capable actors, we needed someone who didn’t necessarily have a magnificent singing voice, but could at least  hold a tune.

Was the play a difficult one to cast?

Difficult in the sense that I think the singing requirement scared a few people away. I also had a late withdrawal which caused a couple of grey hairs, but I am now very pleased with the cast we have assembled.

Would you describe this play as another iconic piece of Australiana – much like The Castle – and why?

I don’t think I would put it in the same mould as The Castle, in that they are two very different pieces of work. The show has definitely achieved iconic status with its successful 4 seasons in Tasmania. I do believe it to be an important piece of Australian theatre.

Given that this is your first attempt at directing, can you describe some of emotions you have/are experiencing as you delve further into the process of preparing a play for an audience?

Mixed emotions. Despair at a poor rehearsal, elation at a good one! I am just hoping to get the best out of everyone, and my dream is to be as good a director as some of the directors that have inspired me over the years.

How much preparation work did you do before starting the rehearsal process?

The band have been getting together to do the songs for quite some months before the show was cast, however, the interaction between band and cast is all new. Certainly planning, timelines, schedules and sets have been rolling around the head for a while now.

What sort of challenges have reared their ugly heads to date and how have these been managed?

There have been plenty of challenges for me. Particularly as a first time director. They may be run of the mill stuff for experienced directors but it is all new to me. The lack of resources of our small company always presents challenges and requires you to make the best of what you have. Generally this is done well by all concerned with the company and good shows are the result.

Can you talk about some of the personal rewards that you  have experienced to date and how these offer inspiration and encouragement?

No rewards so far!! The reward I want is  that the end result is a well performed and well received show!

What is the one big theme of this play that sticks with you and what do you ultimately hope that audiences take with them after having viewed the play?

I think that different themes can be interpreted by different people and they may all take something different away with them. I believe the main theme to be the triumph of spirit and love over adversity. It is a great story, with great music and I believe you will all see some high quality performances.

The Tank at Sunshine Community Theatre 82 Phoenix St Nth Sunshine November 3 – 12.