A flurry of handwritten words fill a scrim at the front of the stage as Virginia Woolf’s voice is heard reading from her essay Craftsmanship(recorded in 1937) about the power and beauty of words. The words briefly form columns then gather to create an image of the author’s face before dissipating as Alessandra Ferri is revealed on stage in the guise of Woolf’s character Clarissa Dalloway.

So begins Woolf Works, Wayne McGregor’s first full-length work, created in 2015 for The Royal Ballet where he has been Resident Choreographer since 2006. For the ballet – which is constructed as a triptych – McGregor draws on three landmark novels by the groundbreaking, experimental English novelist: Mrs Dalloway, Orlandoand The Waves.

Woolf Works Alessandra Ferri in I now, I thenfrom Woolf Works. Photo © Darren Thomas

On the face of it, it seems an unlikely subject for McGregor who is best known for his cerebral, abstract, conceptual dance works that frequently draw on science – even though Woolf’s writing has a rhythmic, musical quality. (In fact, says McGregor’s dramaturg Uzma Hameed in her programme notes, Woolf wrote The Waveswhile listening to...