Newport’s Riverfront Theatre has played host to many different shows and productions. On the venues 15th anniversary, four performances of Theatre Clwyd’s presentation of Emily White’s Pavilion, are the icing on the venue’s birthday cake.
Set in a run-down spa town in a forgotten part of Wales, the long-established Pavilion opens its doors for one final night as drinkers, dwellers and dancers, address their past, present and future.
Jacob Hughes rotating set moves the action from Myfanwy’s chip van to Pavilion’s bar area and then to the dancefloor (and occasionally the ladies loo) all atmospherically lit by Tim Mascall.
Many identifiable characters frequent the Pavilion. All credit must go to director Tamara Harvey and the actors that bring Emily White’s creations to life over the productions two hours.
Matching the ensemble casts choreography with strong dialogue, Pavilion becomes a bold presentation of Poetic Theatre as Victoria John’s iconic portrayal of barmaid, Big Nell, brings narrative to the piece. A strong personality with a heart of gold, Nell doesn’t hold back on vivid descriptions of Friday Night shenanigans using descriptive and colourful language. Nor does she suffer fools gladly, as she threatens the existence of DJ Smudge for a poor taste in music and later, wrestles a troublemaker to the ground.
Each character has a story and Michael Geary’s placid barman, Evan, hears most of them. Ifan Huw Dafydd’s ex-miner Dewi, sways between the dancefloor and propping up the bar, delighting the audience by resonating comical observations and beautiful poetry with his deep rich Welsh tones.
Tim Treloar’s respected history teacher, Dylan, faces the end of his career due to a suspension from his school. Remaining hopeful, (and probably encouraged by the assured love of Big Nell) Dylan continues to encourage the younger members of the community to embrace their education and their futures.
There are magical performances from Carly Sophia Davies as the loud, lovable Jess, Lowri Hamer as her dependable but heavily pregnant cousin, Bethan and Rebecca Smith Williams as Bethan’s sister Mary, who has returned home from London. All three actresses display a broad range of emotion and performance as they escalate the highs and lows of a Friday night out, accelerated at times by the aggressive behaviour of local boy, Lloyd (Kristian Philips) and resident Casanova, Mark (Adam Redman).
Outside, Caitlin Drake’s Myfanwy serves the younger dwellers from her chippy van and finds she has an admirer and defender in young Gary (Elis Duffy). Both Caitlin Drake and Elis Duffy gel together beautifully as their characters build on their friendship and understanding of each other. Both actors also get to shine individually as Miss Drake sings a mesmerising rendition of Bat for Lashes Laura, while Duffy delivers a moving dialogue towards the shows climax, which doesn’t leave a dry eye or gasp from the audience.
A momentous production, Pavilion certainly deserves to be staged again in theatres and even cross paths into other genres. It really is that awesome!