Friday, 18 March 2011

Idiot Tales. The Most Incredible Thing, Pet Shop Boys/Javier de Frutos World Premier, Sadler’s Wells 17/3/11

Stages are mouths into which you can throw the world and their gaping maws will hunger for more. This truth must be haunting the ‘dream’ collaborators of the Pet Shop Boys and choreographer Javier de Frutos today after last night's world premier. They threw every device they could think at this ill-conceived reworking of the Hans Anderson tale - dancers, spoken word, dramatic lighting effects, spinning, whirling scenery yet the Sadler’s Wells stage was left chewing a pea.

Theatrical works live by creating a world, an order into which the action, dance or drama can fit. It doesn’t have to be believable, but it needs logic. Without it the audience is left with the empty spectacle of increasingly futile gestures. Three buxom muses leapt engagingly at our hero as he tried to make the most incredible thing. They were referencing Balanchine’s great ballet, Apollo in their mirrored gestures and mini Grecian togas. But it compared vintage champagne to Thunderbird, making de Frutos’s desperate dance making all the more lame by association with a work of genius.

The evening's doom was flagged up early by the show’s nervous producer asking us to indulge our patience, that this was a world premier and things just might go wrong. These must be the wisest words she’s uttered since taking up this ill-fated project.

It was as if the whole piece lacked a director for it lacked sense. Who with a full-blooded frontal cortex would have agreed to such impressive, but distracting, animation effects (courtesy of BAFTA-winning animator Tal Rosner). It made the frantic leaps of the dancers like mosquitoes beneath a blazing sun.

We left after the second act – the curtain dropped as the cartoon king was thrown spinning across the stage. Behind us two conspicuously empty seats in the centre of Row A of the Circle. It was a low-key, elegant, gesture of disapproval. If only the creators of this debacle could have engaged with these concepts rather than empty bombast they were so determined to nail.