Beauty and the Beast, Northern Ballet, Lyceum

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FIRST things first. This is a production of epic grandeur on a scale that is seldom seen outside the Capital. Northern Ballet’s long held reputation for staging narrative ballets reaches its peak in this toe-curling re-telling of Villeneuve’s 18th century folk tale.

There have been many versions over the years but this breaks the Disney stranglehold on European fairy stories as NBT artistic director David Nixon turns the story of illusion and reality into a cohesive narrative which is simply gorgeous to behold.

This is the story of an arrogant Prince (who rather alarmingly bears a resemblance to Chancellor George Osborne) whose vanity leads to a cruel spell that turns him into a beast.

Ashley Dixon’s interpretation is part wild animal, part human, who needs the love of a good woman to restore him. And they don’t come with much more goodness than Martha Leebolt, whose humanity as Beauty helps her see beyond the mask of ugliness. Her performance is spectacular.

Nixon has set his work in an anytime world which nevertheless owes much of its provenance to the look of 20th century movies. Sets and costumes glorify successive eras and choreography is largely classical with plenty of character work. The whole company dance with a joyful verve and bring a brilliant contrast with the doleful despair demanded by the allegoric allusion.

The key to this production’s success is the superb fusion of music, settings and dance and it ends with the glorious Saint-Saens organ symphony set against the stage background of huge metallic organ pipes and dancers dressed in gold.

Over the years, productions by NBT have come and gone, never to be revived. This one should last forever. Runs until Saturday.

Alan Powell