Rapunzel is far from a frivolous tale, says choreographer Liv Lorent about her company’s new production. “We have enjoyed bringing it to life for an adult audience as well as for children”. And there lies the problem. What adult wants a slightly patronising voice-over breaking in to tell the story, even if the words are by the poet laureate, when a succinct programme note would do the job — as it does for almost all other story ballets. And what child — and there weren’t that many in the audience — would actually enjoy this cruel tale of unhappy people, and a baby given to a witch and kept isolated in a tower for many years?

The action takes place on a gloomy set composed of iron bars. We see the husband, who comes over as a timid man, dressed like a slave from Spartacus, as he enters the witch’s garden, makes his dreadful bargain and plays no real part afterwards. The wife does not win our sympathy with her histrionic gestures, and the jolly children playing with balloons at the beginning of the work form a prelude to a fairly tedious, almost dance-less first act.

Things look up when we finally meet Rapunzel — a powerful performance from Philippa White. She is trapped in a tower of twisted steel; a fine design by Phil Eddolls, which would be much more striking if it were not surrounded by an unnecessary forest of additional steel, reducing its visual impact. We see the near-feral child-woman overcome her fear of the first stranger she has met, and fall in love.

White manages to rise above the ludicrousness of a witch on roller-skates, a prince on a scooter and Murray Gold’s banal music, to show us a woman tortured by loneliness and doubt, who overcomes her terrible experience to find happiness. In her long red wig, White twists and contorts herself amid the writhing steel to bring some depth to a work that is well intentioned, but fails to move.