Pavilion is the best fucking play I’ve seen in fucking ages. But if you don’t like the f word, give it a swerve as I imagine you probably don’t like the c word much either.
All of life is in Pavilion, Emily White’s debut play directed by Tamara Harvey. The play is foul-mouthed and funny, brash and beautiful, soulful and sad.
Pavilion is a club in a small Welsh town that holds a disco every Friday where people go to drink, dance, fight and flirt away their stress, strain, frustration and anger. Because life in this town that is typical of so many others can be hard.
The play takes place on the very last night at Pavilion. It’s about to close, the local high school is due to merge with another miles away, and there are grown men who have never been able to find work and others whose work was taken away, or is about to be.
The music blares out, the language is colourful, the banter is witty as the characters draw us in to the abandon of a good Friday night. So many of the big night out markers are familiar to anyone who hasn’t lived a sheltered life. The outfits and make-up, the flirting, the tunes that have every single person running to the dance floor, the leary lads, the lads looking for a fight, the flash lads. Trying not to smoke but failing, the deteriorating appearances as the night goes on, the girl being sick in the toilet, the girl crying in the toilet.
The humour and the music, the set and the comedy make sure we as an audience have such an amazing time. But the play doesn’t shy away from big issues and in fact deals with them in a very accessible, entertaining way. Unemployment in our post-industrial towns, our high teenage pregnancy rate, the fact that we learn the history of English monarchs instead of our own rich history, poverty.
The cast is exemplary and all pull their weight equally. Michael Geary is Evan, the club steward who doesn’t say much but feels things deeply and whose kindness sometimes leads to bad but well-intentioned decisions. Also pulling the pints is Big Nell, a sparky, funny no-nonsense woman played with skill by Victoria John who also takes the part of MC, narrating many parts. Her boyfriend Dylan is a history teacher who’s in trouble with his head teacher in a time of cut-backs due to not adhering to the curriculum. His reasons why are heart-breaking and Tim Treloar gives a rousing performance.
Ifan Huw Dafydd is alcoholic ex-miner Dewi who can irritate the others but is tolerated and cared for out of respect for his past contribution to society. Carly-Sophia Davies is fantastic as Jess, a bolshy and bright girl who wants to take on the world but has the odds stacked against her.
Caitlin Drake is wonderful as Myfanwy, the charming chip van girl who has a world-class singing voice. Her solo accompanied by cast members dancing is so affecting that every single member of the audience applauded, including a man who had to hold his pint between his teeth to do so.
Rebecca Smith-Williams and Lowri Hamer give very engaging and convincing performances and Ellis Duffy is great as Gary, a sweet teenager who’d like to be an astronaut and as his sister Jess said is “an angel sent from heaven to make me look bad”.
I really enjoyed Tamara Harvey’s direction. Movement was slick or slow as required, with scenes seamlessly shifting from raucous to sublime to devastating through the clever use of music, lighting and choreography.
I only wished I had realised you could buy the full script – if I had, or if I had a better memory, I could have quoted lines of dialogue that I believe are pure poetry. It’s hard to believe that this is Emily White’s first play. She could just stop now and be proud, but I’m sure there’s much more where this came from. We need this new voice writing about issues that need writing about, people who need writing about, and giving us an amazing night’s entertainment while she’s at it.
until October 12