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Lifted by Beauty: Adventures in Dreaming review at Rhyl town centre – ‘inspired’

Caroline Sabin in Lifted by Beauty: Adventures in Dreaming at Rhyl Town Centre. Photo: Stephen King/National Theatre Wales Caroline Sabin in Lifted by Beauty: Adventures in Dreaming at Rhyl Town Centre. Photo: Stephen King/National Theatre Wales
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This National Theatre Wales collaboration with the residents of Rhyl begins with a guided stroll through the town centre taking in short performances at the unique Little Theatre for children and a local cafe.

While heading to the seafront for the main event in Lifted by Beauty, you can’t fail to see a community struggling economically. Rhyl is caught between decline, regeneration and its populist past as North Wales’ answer to Blackpool.

After time spent engaging with the people who live here, artist and theatre director Mark Storor has created a series of magical dream-like visions that he calls his “love letter to Rhyl” – a community engagement project combining installation art, performance, sound, light and voices.

Presented inside a vast subterranean car park submerged beneath the promenade, Storor’s poetic imagery can be difficult to read. There’s no fixed viewpoint, and his intriguing juxtapositions challenge both audience and performers.

To a pounding soundtrack of vintage Soviet-era synthesiser, barely visible human figures crawl across an expanse of soil. A broken-hearted youth’s summer of doomed love ends up smeared in paint. A young boy struggles with his transgender mirror image. A succession of beautifully orchestrated manoeuvres in the dark are performed with sensuality and skill, ending with an eccentric Laurel and Hardy dance before finally emerging into the light for a visit to the beach.

Are sandcastles and donkeys the real Rhyl? Or is this epilogue another strange dream? There’s no obvious answer. But discovering a slice of Rhyl’s inner life is a real adventure in theatre.

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An inspired coming together of artistic magic and community involvement