From the electrifying first tableau (the aftermath of Hamlet's father's murder) this is a beautifully mapped-out evening. Apportioning Hamlet to Tchaikovsky's splendidly reproduced music, James gets the proportions right. Youthful angst pervades; Ophelia's decline is harrowing; the grisly dénouement, powerful. Some allowances are needed: this punchy show should leaven as the tour progresses. More tableaux might help. Christopher James's Polonius seems rawly characterised.
When he resurfaces among the Players in one of the best-danced ensembles, his group work looks far sharper. The Gravediggers scene (Sarah Cassar and James) is one of the nattiest pas de deux of the evening: witty, snappy, subtly worked through.
Australian-born Elizabeth Peck's Gertrude, too, comes alive only later. The bedroom scene with Hamlet is charged, passionate, in a way her smug pirouetting with James Foster's slightly cardboard Claudius isn't. One possible drawback is that the show looks short on solos: Amy Doughty is an affecting, searing Ophelia, partly because she has time on her own.
Tchaikovsky's exquisite songs - actually written for Ophelia - cut to the quick. Hamlet himself (Kier Briody, 20) easily proves his potential, shining not just in duet with Gertrude and Ophelia, but in the "To be or not to be" sequence.
Time and again, it's the slithering detail behind the main action that tells. For my money, the best mover is Alex Grant as Laertes. His is the kind of sly invention more of the lead roles could capitalise on.
A pity lousy Lichfield managed only a measly audience. If these vital youngsters venture near you, book a fistful of seats now.
Touring with A Midsummer Night's Dream to 17 December; www.welshballet.co.ukReuse content