Ten years on from their last stage foray, those synth-loving Pet Shop Boys are back this time with their first ballet based on a Hans Christian Andersen story which may strike a chord at the regal end of Birdcage Walk: the king is planning on offloading his daughter and half his kingdom onto whomever can produce "the most incredible thing." Who will win - our long-haired hero-inventor Leo (Aaron Sillis) or brutish soldier villain Karl (former Royal Ballet star, Ivan Putrov) ?
After some exposition, the first of three acts ends memorably with a Soviet version of The X Factor, with a grainy film of vodka-addled judges who give their verdicts on a series of absurd, lacklustre acts before Leo brings on his winning magic clock.
Choregrapher Javier de Frutos was handpicked for this production and brings his bonkers style with him. Mr de Frutos is especially creative in the second act where he has "a choreographic field day, staging the story of Adam and Eve, the ecstatic devotions of a group of monks, the seven deadly sins and more" according to Variety.
Musically, it's a real mixture: "there are dance rhythms in there, and a live orchestra, but they come layered with house and trance, wild synths, romantic schmaltz and mercurial dissonances" says The Guardian while The Telegraph heard Paris-in-the-autumn piano to driving house and Nine Inch Nails-ish industrial stomps. Were they at the same show?
This is definitely not a traditional ballet; rather, it will irk the purists and challenges other avant-garde ballet to up their game - a Matthew Bourne ultimatum, if you will. Artsdesk sanguinely puts this show in its place saying "The Most Incredible Thing is an assemblage of many good ingredients. It’s a ton better than Shoes, thank goodness." Exeunt Magazine suggests that the Boys have "created a lavish, if imperfect, piece that deserves to be judged on its own terms" while the Telegraph's critic comes over positively moist, telling his readers "I defy anyone to be bored by this phantasmagorical new collaboration."
The most incredible thing about this production will be getting in to see it. Don't say we didn't warn you but if you haven't got a ticket yet and are curious to see what the new ballet Boys have wrought, pray that this show is extended beyond its measly ten-show run.
More information on the show can be found on the Sadler's Wells site here.
If you still want to see Shoes, it will be at the Sadler’s Wells’s Peacock Theatre until 3 April. Read our review here.
Are you having sleepless nights worrying that you are missing out on the latest arts happenings in London? Fret no more.