Stephen Daldry’s production of the musical version of his film Billy Elliot is now in its 10th year at the Victoria Palace and will be broadcast live in cinemas on 28 September, with one of the original three Billys, Liam Mower – now a regular performer with Matthew Bourne’s company – returning for a one-off performance as the older Billy. Seeing the show again after a gap of some eight years, it’s heartening to report that this gritty saga of northern life during the Miners’ Strike is as powerful and poignant as ever. In fact it emerges as a social drama that is a unique fusion of music, drama and dance, with an extraordinary performance from 12 year old Bradley Perret – one of four young actor dancers currently playing the title role – of huge energy, commitment and verve at its centre.

Billy Elliot’s story is, of course, of the boy hero who discovers a way of expressing himself through dance. This is purely accidental at first, as Billy stumbles into a chaotic dance class run by Ruthie Henshall’s winsome Mrs Wilkinson, who proves to be an enlightened teacher and ally. And the ‘be yourself’ message is further pressed home by Billy’s cross-dressing friend Michael (the hilarious Zach Atkinson, who stops the show in his ‘Expressing Yourself’ comedy number). Coal mining is the life blood of the working class community and Billy’s father (Deka Walmsley, effectively making the transition from arrogance to moving support of Billy) and Billy’s brother (Chris Grahamson) are both miners involved in the strike. It’s the juxtaposition of this backdrop that provides drama and adds human sacrifice to an already powerful mix.

Daldry’s staging cleverly combines the different elements throughout, with Peter Darling’s inventive choreography an essential part of the way Billy’s story is told, as the miners repeatedly clash against the police. The opening sequence of ‘The Stars Look Down’ shows the strength of the community as one unit, while the powerfully staged ‘Solidarity’ gloriously mixes the miners’ dispute with Mrs Wilkinson’s chaotic dance class to great effect. It tackles the politics head-on too, with the anti-Thatcher sequence at the top of act two particularly near the knuckle. Likewise, Lee Hall and Elton John’s musical numbers reflect the continual ups and downs and shade and colour of the drama and staging, in a real mix of styles reflecting working class culture, from hymns and male voice choirs to folk and rock ‘n’ roll.

Further emotion is added with occasional appearances from Billy’s deceased Mum (Claudia Bradley) who gives advice to her son via a letter, along with more humour from (original cast member) Ann Emery’s turn as Billy’s dotty Grandma, liberated in old age after being stuck in a love/hate relationship for 30 years. Lee Hoy as the older Billy gets two lovely sequences too, giving the audience an insight into Billy’s future as a ballet dancer. And Henshall is on fine form (in a succession of glorious eighties outfits and perm) as the dance teacher who takes a troop of local girls through their paces in ‘Shine’ and the hilarious ‘Born to Boogie’, but who sees real talent in Billy above and beyond what she can teach him, encouraging him to get out and have salvation in a new world of creativity.

But it’s the question that Billy is asked when he finally makes his audition for the Royal Ballet School that is central to Billy’s story – why does he have to dance? The amazing ‘Electricity’ sequence showcases how and why Billy finds salvation and expression, with Perret’s Billy featuring in a stunning explosion of energy and breathless excitement. More upbeat than Blood Brothers, and surely more moving than the forthcoming Made in Dagenham (another strike-themed show), Billy Elliot is a rare, inherently British show of enlightenment, expression, sacrifice...and pure talent.