Frances Myatt

In dance, Frances Myatt, 13, won the The Guardian young critics competition under 14 age group for her review of The Return of Ulysses in Edinburgh.

Dance (under 14)
Frances Myatt, 13
The Return of Ulysses, Edinburgh Playhouse
This modern take on the story of Penelope waiting on the island of Ithaca for Ulysses (Odysseus) to return was performed by the Royal Ballet of Flanders at the Edinburgh Playhouse.
Beautifully choreographed by Christian Spuck, who uses contemporary, repetitive movements surprisingly effectively, so that they convey the trapped, desperate feeling Penelope has as her suitors grow increasingly more pressing. The costumes are simple but lovely and the sets are also relatively unadorned, with the lighting casting amazing shadows on the blank walls so there seem to be twice as many dancers.
Joëlle Auspert, as Penelope, is a beautiful dancer who manages to make the most un-balletic movements seem elegant and graceful. You can sense her changing feelings as the years pass by and she has no news of Ulysses. Yet when he finally returns she seems unsure of her feelings towards him.
Athena (Giulia Tonelli), appearing in a glitzy gold outfit, seemed to be a cross between an air stewardess and a tour guide. An impressive dancer, she was obviously enjoying herself as she ordered the courtiers around and treated Telemachus (Penelope’s son) like a naughty little boy. Poseidon briefly appeared in a white tutu and flippers. Although popular with the audience, he didn’t seem like a god to me, more an ugly duckling.
The music, on the other hand, was rather mixed. It included a great range of styles, from Purcell to Bobby Vinton, but often seemed unconnected with the dancers and instead competed for your attention. At some times the fusion of styles worked but at other times … no. In contrast the soprano, Elin Manahan Thomas, was fabulous. What was particularly successful was her actually being on stage with the dancers, connected, and yet separate from them.
Unfortunately the thin storyline and lack of information sometimes made it hard to work out what was going on. Telemachus spent most of his time hiding under the table and it took me a long while to work out who was Ulysses.
On the whole it was an inspiring piece, well-deserving its standing ovation.

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