|Lyn Gardner at Rhyl|
Lifted By Beauty: Adventures in Dreaming
|National Theatre Wales , Locations across Rhyl , April-02-17|
It is a first that a broadsheet has received such a weight of protest against the budget-cutting of the activities of a critic. A league of artistic directors were among the petitioners, testimony to the esteem and regard with which Lyn Gardner is held by the makers of theatre.
True to form she was at Rhyl for the first of National Theatre of Wales' three performances. Her review reads
"I love National Theatre Wales (NTW). I love the way they spring surprises and the way every show is so different. I love how they burrow down into communities and then show us what they found. How they take audiences to places they wouldn’t usually go. And I love their bravery and risk-taking – even if it sometimes means that things don’t quite work.
Like Lifted By Beauty, for example, which was created by Mark Storor with a professional company and the people of Rhyl, and inspired by NTW’s Big Democracy Project and a day-long event in the Senedd at which it was decided that austerity is the most pressing issue facing Wales. The piece tries to get to the heart of Rhyl, which resides not in the boarded up shops and faded seafront hotels but in its people and their personal stories. Unfortunately, we only hear snatches of those stories.
Prior to the main event, Lifted By Beauty sends you off on your own mini-adventure with a map of the town. In the Little theatre, it’s not so much the woman on stage who holds the attention but the filmed segments, projected on to black drapes, of people recalling times they have had at the theatre and how much it has meant to them. They haunt the auditorium like ghosts.
A former beach donkey waits patiently outside Poundland in the high street. In the window of Liffy’s café, two women tend to another woman and a banner behind them reads: “Try to do kindness every day.” The show favours uplifting sloganeering, often with a poetic edge.
“If in doubt follow the light, follow the sound,” we are told on the seafront before we are led into an underground car park. Here, in the gloom, a woman works her away across the space with soil dropping from her belly like babies; a sightless man is lead on a piece of string by a young woman to a circle where he becomes a living action painting; a man sits in a glass house; a figure on a bed is reflected back in many mirrors, many identities.
There are snatches of stories accompanying these images, but often they are hard to hear. And even when you do catch them, too often they are unilluminating.
You get a sense of angst looming in the dank, underground gloom, but – with a couple of exceptions, the mirror sequence in particular – you remain in the dark about what these images signify. The real people behind the stories remain elusive, shadowy and still unheard.
It’s a relief to emerge from the murky darkness into the fading light. The sky is vast and still pink. Razor clams crunch under our feet, Brian Duffy’s score swells like the sea itself, the breakwater is studded with lamps, and out in the distance, a figures whirls and dances, white robes flapping like angels’ wings. It’s a beautiful ending to a frustrating show."
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Reviewed by: Adam Somerset
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