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A CurtainUp London Review
Go Bang Your Tambourine

"Six months of wedded bliss with you and I'd be joining the Salvation Army!"
— Bess Jones
Go Bang Your Tambourine
Patience Tomlinson as Major Webber and Sebastian Calver as David
(Photo: Phil Gammon)
The great critic of the 20th century Kenneth Tynan said of one of Philip King's playscripts that he had written "great suburban poetry". The Finborough is especially adroit at mining diamond plays which haven't been seen for decades. The perfectly pitched productions this pub theatre gives their discoveries will have excellent performances and direction, and the plays will resonate.

Go Bang Your Tambourine set in 1970 is about a nineteen year old who, living in the North of England, is cast adrift when his mother dies. David Armstrong (Sebastian Calver)'s father moved out of their home a few years' back to live with his paramour "Doris" in Nottingham but has come back to his estranged wife's funeral. David, like his mother, is a member of the local Salvation Army Citadel and is learning to play the cornet.

David's mother and her religious grouping have influenced David in his attitude towards his absentee father. Thomas Armstrong (John Sackville) is a womaniser and opposed to the Salvationists. To solve his problem in continuing to pay the rent David advertises a room to let to a lodger.

Bess Jones (Mia Austen) has to leave her lodgings because her landlady is going away and doesn't trust her husband with the attractive blonde barmaid, and calls on David to ask about the room.

David, impressionable and with no other parent figure than Major Webber from the Salvation Army (Patience Tomlinson) is captivated by the charming Bess and insists that she take the room. When the lothario father returns, a triangle is set up of infatuation and fantasy, and sexual encounter.

I suppose this play is about the cultural clash between old values and the sexual revolution of the 1960s but interestingly it is the parent who is allegedly "liberated". The father's character is not one we warm to and his lack of care for his son is cruel.

Sebastian Calver, who is making his professional debut here, is an actor to look out for with his sensitive portrayal of the old-fashioned, isolated boy. David is suspicious at first but his trust is won and betrayed but not by whom you might expect. Mia Austen delights as Bess, her personality attractive to all.

The performances are excellent under Tricia Thorns' naturalistic direction and much of the tragi-comic play will make you laugh at this slice of Northern life papering over the intergenerational and cross morality cracks.

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Go Bang Your Tambourine
Written by Philip King
Directed by Tricia Thorns
Starring: Sebastian Calver, John Sackville, Patience Tomlinson, Mia Austen
Set Design: Alex Marker
Costume Design: Eleanor Tipler
Lighting Design: Mark Dymock
Sound Designer: Dominic Bilkey
Fight director: Toby Spearpoint
Running time: Two hours 50 minutes including two intervals
Box Office: 01223 357 851
Booking to 31st August 2019
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 10th August 2019 evening performance at The Finborough, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED (Tube: Earls Court)
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