EVEN though Northern Ballet (NB) no longer adds "theatre'"to its name, the company and its artistic director, David Nixon, haven't given up on dramatic storytelling.

This dark, poetic Beauty and the Beast – Nixon's latest full-length ballet for NB – has relevant theatricality at every level of the production.

It's in the details of the design, the live orchestral music – an astute mix of Saint-Saens, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc and Glazunov – that creates a telling mood-scape, and it's in the nuances of Nixon's choreography, especially in the pas-de-deux that reflect the leading couple's evolving rapport.

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His narrative opens in a mirrored hall with the narcissistic Prince Orion (Tobias Batley) obsessing over his own good looks. Vanity, it seems, will prove to be the inner ugliness that brings out the Beast (Benjamin Mitchell) in him.

If this duality, superbly charactered by both dancers, carries hints of Jekyll and Hyde well there's a nod towards Sleeping Beauty in the fairy-induced dreams of Prince Orion that so beguile this Beauty (Pippa Moore, a touchingly bright innocent). She's girlishly swoony in her first dream encounter with Batley's debonair Prince but her feelings take on maturity, womanliness, in the dances where she comes to trust and care for Mitchell's Beast – who is here more feral satyr than zoo animal.

Even the set blossoms, with white roses popping out of the woodwork as love takes hold.

Just one of the gorgeous flourishes in a ballet that's rich with imagination, wit – Beauty's spendthrift family are a wicked source of comedy– and fairy magic. The really happy ending, however, would be if NB toured elsewhere in Scotland.

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