‘NECESSITY”, as the old saying goes, “is the mother of invention.” The adage is proved abundantly and brilliantly true by Scottish Ballet’s hour-long movie The Secret Theatre.

With the theatres closed down by the pandemic, our national ballet company decided to make its first-ever feature film. Thank goodness it did so.

The movie is a beautifully-crafted and defiant assertion of the human need for artistic expression in dark and difficult times. Set in a grand, but empty, theatre, the film follows an intrepid, little boy (performed charmingly by Leo Tetteh) as he ventures through an unlocked door and into the stalls.

Evading the attentions of a torch-shining security guard, the child makes his way backstage. There, he finds that his presence awakens the dormant characters of the festive ballets.

This cleverly-conceived story is the work of two creative directors, choreographer (and Scottish Ballet’s artistic director) Christopher Hampson and his regular collaborator (and designer extraordinaire) Lez Brotherston. Filmed, with immense skill and imagination, by Jess and Morgs (aka Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple), it truly is the proverbial good deed in a naughty world.

Clutching his beloved football, the boy is taken under the wing of a kindly circus artist from Hampson’s memorable version of The Snow Queen. The child watches, wide-eyed, as the fabulously ambiguous ringmaster – who seems to be, simultaneously, warm-hearted and a little dangerous – introduces the various artistes that his circus has to offer.

What we lose in the atmosphere of live ballet, we gain in an unusual proximity to the universally excellent dancers. Thanks to Jess and Morgs’s ingenious camerawork we can almost smell the sweat on the brow of

the strongman as he does press-ups with a female acrobat lying on his back.

Between them, the screen directors and designer Brotherston ensure that Scottish Ballet’s famous gorgeous costumes become stars of the show. A feature film is the perfect opportunity to offer us a close-up experience of the ringmaster’s opulent Bohemianism and the Snow Queen’s shivering splendour.

Indeed, the sudden arrival of Hans Christian Andersen’s aforementioned empress of winter is a technical highlight of the movie. The film boasts smartly-attuned, atmospheric lighting throughout, not least in the sense of rapidly descending, dark clouds that presage the Snow Queen’s entrance.

Ballet isn’t ballet without a great musical score, and you don’t get much better that this one, which brings together excerpts from the balletic works of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky. Recorded live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, the music has a tremendous sense of vitality, conveying, by turns, the grandeur, foreboding and drama of the action.

The movie draws on Tchaikovsky’s famous score for The Nutcracker, and also the late, great Peter Darrell’s choreography of the same ballet. One should not spoil the conclusion of a new balletic work at any time, and certainly not at Christmas time. Suffice it to say that the little boy’s adventure in The Secret Theatre closes with a delightful homage to Darrell’s work.

The forcing of stage work onto the screen in this virus-scarred year has presented theatre artists with huge challenges. However, Scottish Ballet, no doubt, had greater resources at its disposal than many theatre companies.

That said, the budget for The Secret Theatre will have been puny compared to that of the average made-for-cinema film. That it is, nevertheless, a work of such splendid style and invention is a great credit to the entire company.

The Secret Theatre is streamed online from tomorrow. Tickets are free and can be booked at scottishballet.co.uk