There are many reasons why a ballet company would want its own version of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. It has a plot that every audience knows in advance; it has the most glorious score ever written for ballet; it has four meaty solo parts for boys (and that's rare).
But in this country there is compelling reason for caution. Sir Kenneth MacMillan's 1965 version for the Royal Ballet, with its glowing designs by Nicholas Georgiadis, has become the standard that all R&Js must measure up to. It's not faultless - screeds of crowd scenes could be cut - but the emotional core of Sir Kenneth's work, in the pas de deux, is universally judged sublime.
That did not deter the Norwegian National Ballet from asking the British choreographer Michael Corder to make them a Romeo and Juliet. And since its first outing in 1992 it has been shown on TV and become an Oslo box- office hit. But on the Norwegians' first- ever visit to London, it was surely a naive choice. Had no one warned them that comparisons with the Royal Ballet version would be made? And if so, were they aware of the extent to which Corder has leant on the work of the late Sir Kenneth?
As it was, the Sadler's Wells audience sat through three hours of narrative ballet that did little more than motor the story along, nudging us in the ribs when Corder showed any glimmer of invention. To his credit, the street scenes are excellent: larky boys mooning at Capulet henchmen; fast, risky-looking sword-fights; some clever stuff in which opposing factions prowl in concentric circles; and a happy absence of the vapid rhubarbing that too often prevails among stage townsfolk. Yet the key moments of crowd drama - even Mercutio's death - lacked any sense of doom.
The set, by Nadine Baylis, did even less to encourage an intimate connection with the text. It's hard to imagine the citizens of Verona wanting to hang around this hard, shiny piazza that resembles a Beverly Hills bathroom. Likewise, Norway's star-cross'd couple were all glossy good looks.
I was initially cheered to see that Corder had done away with Juliet's silly doll in her opening scene, but his choreography subsequently does nothing to …