Words: Jo Henwood. Photos: The Other Richard
Early publicity material for Pavilion at Theatr Clwyd billed it as a modern-day Under Milk Wood. My expectations are understandably very high as I head to Mold.
Set in a spa town, near Builth Wells, the action takes place in and around the local nightclub, the Pavilion, or the ‘Pivi’ on the eve of its demise. It is one of the final institutions in the town to close its doors following the merger of the local school with a neighbouring comp.
Emily White’s debut play, a dark comedy, is about disillusion, disappointment, distrust and dismay, violence and shattered hopes.
Gary has dreams of being an astronaut but isn’t studying the right subjects at A level, Myfanwy has the voice of an angel but is selling chips from a van and vodka-loving Jess once wrote an essay on the suffragettes that her teacher says was one of the best he had ever read. Even Mary, who went to London and got a degree, is earning the minimum wage in a dead-end temporary filing job.
The message was clear – poverty, unemployment and inequality equals hopelessness. It was dark and there was comedy, but it didn’t quite come together as a whole. The characters were not developed enough for me to care, the lesson was sometimes too laboured and the comedy relied a lot on swearing and predictable one-liners.
Having said that, there were some gorgeous performances – Carly Sophia Davies as the drunken Jess is an absolute hoot, especially when she steals chips from a very sober Nell (Victoria John), while professing undying love for her erstwhile history teacher Dylan (Tim Treloar) and all before her final ‘vom’ in the Pivi toilets. Ellis Duffy is a beautifully understated Gary – Jess’s 16-year-old brother who has never been kissed. Lowri Hamer as Bethan is a proper Polly Garter, who dreams of a perfect life, with purpose, once her illegitimate baby is born.
Mouthy barmaid Nell hated the DJ’s playlist – maybe she had just heard it one too many times – but I loved it. From Beyoncé to Dexy’s Midnight Runners to the Welsh sex bomb himself Tom Jones I could have sung along all night.
The audience at Theatr Clwyd was a refreshingly mixed demographic and it was clear from the final curtain that people enjoyed the show.
Pavilion is at Theatr Clwyd until 12 October. Tickets, from £10, are available from theatrclwyd.com or from the box office on 01352 344101/701521.
We have given this production three stars.
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