Sunday, 20 March 2011

Debussy to a Disco beat

What can I say about the new Pet Shop Boys ballet, other than its title is so appropriate?!

For The Most Incredible Thing was exactly that! Incredible!

With its utterly stunning visuals, superbly orchestrated music from the Boys, and exhaustingly brilliant choreography by Javier De Frutos, this was a sensory and emotional feast.

Based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, the story is set in a mystical kingdom where the (brilliantly synchronised) workers work and the royals don't, where revolution is never far away, and the King (Michael Camp) has plans to make his people happy. He announces a contest, the prize being half his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage, for anyone who can present him with the eponymous "Most Incredible Thing".

We are treated to the back-story (in dance) of the relationships between the bored Princess (Clemmie Sveaas), the ambitious inventor Leo (Aaron Sillis), and the villainous military leader Karl (Ivan Putrov) as the competition gets underway. The contest is (hilariously) staged as a sort of "Mystical Kingdom's Got Talent"-type show, with a succession of typically inept entrants. Until, that is, our hero Leo presents his little invention (built with the assistance of three Muses, en point of course, who perform a beautiful "pas de quatre" with him, if such a thing exists) - a pocket watch. Not much of an "incredible thing" one might think...

However, in the second part (this ballet, unusually, has three sections and two intervals), the true nature of Leo's creation is revealed in a series of increasingly spectacular choreographed fantasy scenes - one for every hour on the clock. Where the opening segment was beautiful and funny in turn, this sequence was just breath-taking! Sr De Frutos pays homage to fellow dance maestros Fosse, Ashton and even Busby Berkeley(!), and lets his imagination run riot. To accompany this brilliance, the visual spectacle goes into overdrive, and Mr Tennant and Mr Lowe's music shows its true breadth and variety. I was exhausted!

Of course, true to all fairy tales, the villain has to have his moment, and Karl's comes right at the close of the fantasy sequence when he brutally crushes and destroys the watch, claiming this instead to be "The Most Incredible Thing" and usurping the prize. So close was this to pantomime, we almost hissed and booed...

So we witness the unhappy preparations for the nuptials between the Princess and the villain - cleverly staged all in black and white - and poor Leo languishing in jail. But all is not lost (of course), as to the rescue come the Muses, and the rebuilt clock miraculously swallows up the malevolent Karl, freeing the Princess and Leo to renew their love. Their joy is encapsulated in a (rather clumsy I thought) duet, but this is immediately followed by the ensemble number (that returns us cleverly to the synchronicity of the opening "workers" number) at their wedding feast. So all is right once more.

And, in the end "the most incredible thing is: no-one is jealous"!

Bloody magnificent, and thanks to our friend Paul who managed to get me, John-John and Julie tickets for this now sold-out event! This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget.

The Most Incredible Thing music preview:

Sadlers Wells trailer:

The Most Incredible Thing is at Sadlers Wells until 26th March 2011.


  1. I would have loved to see this - thanks for the excellent review. I havent gotten my copy of the CD yet, looking forward to it!

  2. totally jel

    but what a great blog / review - you really do excel at writing about shows like this - never fawning (that clumsy duet) but giving a real sense of the event and evening.

    I did want to see this but assumed no-one else would and so didn't get tickets - as you say this very short run is completely sold out so I'm hoping it returns.


  3. Thanks, boys, for the compliments!

    The success of the ballet in this short run does indeed suggest it will not end here - in fact rumour has it that it is due a run at The Lowry in Manchester, so look out for a tour (and a return to London no doubt)!


    PS What's "totally jel", innit?

  4. I hope it does return to London.

    Totally Jel is one of the catch-phrases from The Only Way Is Essex - Totally Jealous innit

  5. Oh good grief - East End Girls and West End Boys indeed! Jx

  6. oh good grief - its like generations over-lapping dear x

  7. It's all just a little bit of history repeating, dear... Jx


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