Elderly king, baddie in black, slavic serfs, handsome poet, lonely princess and a quest throughout the land for The Most Incredible Thing: it’s certainly the stuff of fairy tale, but where do the Pet Shop Boys come in?
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s short story, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe showcase a modern Tchaikovsky-style story ballet radically choreographed by Javier du Frutos and led by ex Royal Ballet principal Ivan Putrov. The result, a punchy, whimsical mixture of modern dance, ballet, animation, film, vocals, sly political humour, the X Factor, Mae West’s face, and a Stalinist baddie is best described as a 'dance event'.
The signature synth thump can get tiresome. Sometimes the score contradicts narrative as when a flowing lyrical waltz accompanies sexual molestation. But the lovers' lush ‘80s disco pas de deux has people humming it out into the interval. Whilst Aaron Sillis is a winsome, handsome hero you feel that the touchingly feisty yet innocent Princess might be better off with Putrov’s Stalin-styled Karl, planning his military coup, at once subtle and brutal, lithe and exciting. In a project Putrov has helped create he is a villain we love to hate.
While the story is gripping The Most Incredible Thing itself lacks magic. Being, in fact, a clock that magically reveals figures enacting everything from Adam and Eve to the Five Senses, the stage realisation of this miraculous thing goes from naff to bewildering to threatening. Intriguing whilst not exactly life affirming.
It’s a happy ending of course but, are we looking at the triumph of love over hate, creativity over destruction, freedom over oppression? What truly is The Most Incredible Thing? Don’t ask, just go, experience and argue afterwards. Everybody else is.