Emily White’s assured debut play Pavilion depicts the community of a run-down Victorian spa town somewhere in Wales, where everything is closing down. Pits, schools and now the Pavilion nightclub – the Pivvy – a place that has long been the focus of everyone’s weekend.
Bar tenders Big Nell and Evan brace themselves for one final onslaught of teenagers, while outside 19-year-old Miv prepares her chip van to feed the hordes. Vying for Miv’s affection are local Lothario Mark and shy young Gary. Propping up the bar are inveterate drunk Dewi and teacher Dylan Thomas, suspended for encouraging his pupils to strike. Add to this mix the hot-headed young Lloyd, a couple of Bristol lads out for a fight, and several handbags full of vodka, and we’re in for an incendiary night.
White’s play consists of well-fashioned individual stories. Mark has left a trail of broken hearts in his wake including 16-year-old Bethan, pregnant with his child. Miv does a balancing act between Mark and Gary, while Dylan campaigns to get his job back.
Tamara Harvey’s production is a detailed ensemble piece, using acidic comedy to evoke a community defiantly facing decay. Harvey’s direction has ferocious energy and she draws great performances from her actors, particularly Ellis Duffy as Gary and the remarkable Caitlin Drake, making her professional debut here as Miv. She’s someone to watch.
Though the first act tends to meander, White’s play becomes increasingly focused, as it plunges headlong towards the startlingly bleak tragedy of the final scenes.