La Fille Mal Gardée is a light-hearted tale of country folk. Colas, a young farmer, is in love with Lise, and she loves him. The fly in this romantic ointment is that Simone, Lise’s mother, has arranged for her to marry Alain, the simpleton son of a rich landowner. The comedy is built around Simone’s efforts to keep the young lovers apart, and Alain’s reluctant, terrified attempts to play the lover.

The work is widely known and loved through Frederick Ashton’s delightful version for The Royal Ballet of 1960, performed nowadays around Europe, and as far afield as Australia and the United States. This probably accounts for the full house last Thursday, though the version we saw was not Ashton’s, but that made by Alexander Gorsky for the Bolshoi Theatre in 1901. Interestingly, it was the great Diaghilev ballerina Tamara Karsavina, who had danced in the Gorsky Fille, who persuaded Ashton to make his own version, and taught him a lot of the mime sequences, explaining also how the work was staged.

The Gorky piece is a real collectors’ item, almost never seen in this country, and a work of great charm. For those who know the Ashton, it’s also a fascinating insight into the source of his material, even though his choreography is completely original.

Anna Germizeeva is a pert Lise. A teenager in love, she is sometimes stroppy, sometimes cross or sulky, but also exudes her deep love for Colas.

When she is locked in the house, her yearning to be outside with her lover seems to be tearing her apart. She can be funny, and tender too, as she mimes her dream of children, unaware that Colas is watching.

I really liked Vyacheslav Kapustin’s Colas — a cheerful fellow determined to win Simone over, and also a dashing dancer, armed with fine jumps and a likeable personality.

Simone is played by Alexander Kuimov. The role is very much that of a pantomime dame, but he makes the most of his clog dance, and shows that there is a soft heart beneath Simone’s forceful bossiness.

Most impressive of all was Denis Pogorely’s Alain, a dim-witted boy rendered almost manic with fear at the situation his father has put him in.

It’s a performance of wriggling, twitching horror at his situation, increased by the fact that he thinks at first it is Simone he is supposed to be marrying. Pogorely puts on a wonderfully goofy face as he tries to get to grips with his plight.

There are prat-falls and also some clever dancing. In his bewildered, disorientated way, Alain is actually very touching.