Go Bang Your Tambourine
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: