Tag Archives: Finborough Theatre

Go Bang Your Tambourine

★★★★

Finborough Theatre

Go Bang Your Tambourine

Go Bang Your Tambourine

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 8th August 2019

★★★★

 

“A wholesome odd-couple plot, interlaced with serious questions of morality, loyalty and duty of care”

 

As a general rule, give me a ticket to a three-hour fringe production of a play written in 1970, never performed in London, and I will give you a whole bunch of explanations why I sadly can’t attend. So I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that ‘Go Bang Your Tambourine’, directed by Tricia Thorns, is compelling, concise, and heartbreaking.

Young, bashful David (Sebastian Calver), an eager Salvation Army soldier, has lost his mother. His father, Thomas Armstrong (John Sackville), absent for the past four years, returns for the funeral to find David waist-deep in religious zeal and the wholesome SA way.

Living alone in his mother’s house, David is persuaded to take in a lodger. But rather than the appropriate young catholic boy working at the local chemist, he invites Bess Jones (Mia Austen) to rent the room. A bartender at the Golden Lion, Bess is a whole lot worldlier than David, and a fair bit older. But she’s respectful and sweet-natured, and most importantly, David believes, she was sent by God.

A wholesome odd-couple plot, interlaced with serious questions of morality, loyalty and duty of care.

Calver starts off looking like a wounded puppy for the entire first act, which wears a little thin – sad people don’t look sad all the time. Thereafter, however, he conveys an intimate understanding of his character – the occasionally funny, but mostly heart-rending combination of childish naivity and very real misery. After not too long the audience feels very protective of young David – I almost accidentally heckled in his defence in the second act, but just about managed to restrain myself.

Sackville plays the villain skilfully. Writer Philip King was not so binary in his understanding of what makes a man, and Sackville embodies this mess of humanity and cruelty, so that whilst the audience is certainly not on side, it’s hard to know exactly how much blame to lay at his door. Austen is similarly complex in her performance, making room for certain of Bess’ choices which might have appeared to contradict her nature, but which instead give depth to her character. Patience Tomlinson, playing the role of Major Webber of the Salvation Army, is understated but effective.

The entire play takes place in David’s sixties living room: dizzy floral wallpaper, lots of brown furniture and a space heater bizarrely covering the fireplace. Considering the set (Alex Marker) never changes and the play goes on nearly three hours, you might consider this a recipe for very dull disaster. But somehow, the audience is captivated throughout. The incredibly complicated relationships between each of the characters, thick with paradox and uncertainty, fill the stage and time to capacity. A story fundamentally about a naïve nineteen-year old boy living with a savvy Yorkshire lass, director Tricia Thorns brings us a tale full of nuance, coiled intensity and honest contradiction.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Phil Gammon

 


Go Bang Your Tambourine

Finborough Theatre until 31st August

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Funny Thing Happened … | ★★★★ | October 2018
Bury the Dead | ★★★★ | November 2018
Exodus | ★★★★ | November 2018
Jeannie | ★★★★ | November 2018
Beast on the Moon | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Time Is Love | ★★★½ | January 2019
A Lesson From Aloes | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Maggie May     | ★★★★ | March 2019
Blueprint Medea | ★★★ | May 2019
After Dark; Or, A Drama Of London Life | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life
★★★★

Finborough Theatre

After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life

After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life

Finborough Theatre

Reviewed – 20th June 2019

★★★★

 

“once you get your ear into a penny dreadful frame of mind, it becomes engrossing and plain fun”

 

If you’d told me that a Thursday evening in Brexit Britain following the latest instalment of a soulless slog towards finding the new Tory Prime Minister would have seen me grinning along to a rousing rendition of Rule Britannia, complete with Union Jacks, I’d have laughed in your face. But perhaps the play is right; all the best things do happen After Dark.

Written by Dion Boucicault (who based it on Les Oiseaux de Proie by Eugène Grangé and Adolphe d’Ennery), the work, subtitled A Drama of London Life, was an 1868 box office hit. London life is right; we find ourselves at the nexus of some key moments in our city’s past. Robert Peel’s bobbies patrol the streets, the new Metropolitan line (cleverly rendered) plays a starring role and (gulp) empire is held above all. Despite adjustments for modern audiences (director Phil Willmott rightly removed anti-Semitic characterisation), this remains every inch the melodrama, with ham in spades. The music hall is still alive at the Finborough, with the saucy ditties to prove it, and some depictions border on panto. Toby Wynn-Davies as sly lawyer Chandos Bellingham, for example, is only ever a signature song away from Fagin – but once you get your ear into a penny dreadful frame of mind, it becomes engrossing and just good plain fun. Wynn-Davies in particular brings real menace, especially in a beautifully-choreographed scene making the most of the clever sliding set and a terrific thunderclap sound effect.

In fact sound (Julian Starr) and lighting (Zak Macro) are, uniformly, first class. Rousing Victorian brass sets the scene and the live music too is of exceptionally high quality; Gabi King, Rosa Lennox (who is also musical director) and Helen Potter deliver a genuinely affecting rendition of Abide With Me, amongst other more ribald pieces. Hannah Postlethwaite’s adroit staging, establishing all of London from treacherous Rotherhithe to a smart hat shop, combined with liberal quantities of dry ice, make the small space feel genuinely atmospheric. It doesn’t take long to believe we’re in the murky streets of old; fans of Sherlock Holmes will find plenty here to enjoy.

Those of us who have had a sticky tube journey here might be heard snorting at the underground described as a ‘glorious pathway of shining light’, and certainly there are other moments that date the piece even uncomfortably (the uneasily stereotypical Russian dance troupe springs to mind). But approach the night with tongue firmly in cheek, anticipating an ending of Shakespearean levels of silliness, and you can’t go too far wrong.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Sheila Burnett

 


 After Dark; or, A Drama of London Life

Finborough Theatre until 6th July

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Square Rounds | ★★★ | September 2018
A Funny Thing Happened … | ★★★★ | October 2018
Bury the Dead | ★★★★ | November 2018
Exodus | ★★★★ | November 2018
Jeannie | ★★★★ | November 2018
Beast on the Moon | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Time Is Love | ★★★½ | January 2019
A Lesson From Aloes | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Maggie May     | ★★★★ | March 2019
Blueprint Medea | ★★★ | May 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com