The Most Incredible Thing: Pet Shop Boys & Javier De Frutos; Sadlers Wells, 17 March 2011

Putrov surveys the chaotic Fruits of the Boys labour

Clocking off for the day. Clemmie Sveaas does her best for the Boys

It was good to see Ivan Putrov, recently cut adrift from the good ship Royal Ballet, popping up in the lead in the new ‘ballet’ from synth duo the Pet Shop Boys and Venezuelan choreographer Javier De Frutos. He’s been badly miscast however; he simply doesn’t have the physical presence of a military hard-man and his smooth classical style is often at odds with the thumping contemporary choreography and music battling around him.

The show itself is a right mish-mash. Hans Christian Andersen’s simple fairy tale of a king who promises the hand of his daughter in marriage to the man who can produce the most incredible thing has been turned into a surrealist parade of pastiche that incorporates everything from Salvador Dali to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (not to mention Max Wall and John Cleese’s silly walks) the result of which is a virtually incomprehensible narrative. Tennant and Lowe’s music is also a retro bombastic hotch-potch of 80’s electro ranging from Kraftwerk to Jean-Michel Jarre to New Order. I hope, too, that they’ve cleared the rights for the piano part in the final love theme that they nicked from Coldplay or else there’ll be trouble.

The undoubted stand-out feature of the show are the visuals which at times are magnificent. Tal Rosner’s film projections are imaginatively employed, especially when realising the marvels of the clock in Act 2, and Lucy Carter’s terrifically overblown lighting for the moonwalk is astonishing.

Despite the mess of the whole, the two and a half hours whizzed by, which suggests there’ a decent show buried in there somewhere. A clearer narrative is key and there’s plenty of work to be done on the show within a show which was overlong and fell completely flat. It’s probably too late to save Frutos’ disappointingly pedestrian choreography, although Clemmie Sveaas makes the best of a rum deal as the Princess. This was the first of four preview shows and, on this evidence, the cast and crew won’t be getting much sleep if they want to get this show right for its proper opening night on March 22nd.

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