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.


Neville Hawkes said...

You can't legitimately post a review that criticises a show's logical structure when you couldn't be bothered to watch it to the end. If you'd done that with Death and the King's Horseman at the National, as just one example, you'd have written it off as crap because you'd left at the interval and so never realised that everything made sense. By all means, walk out, but if you do, don't expect your review to have any credibility.

Diana said...

@Neville Hawkes: In this case, staying to the end makes clear that this review is spot on. I love the Pet Shop Boys and the music was fine (not their greatest, but fine), but they were so poorly served by the choreography that this was just a sad, sad experience. The romantic pas de deux was essentially: I love you so I'll hug you, then you hug me, and I'll hug you, etc. etc. Ballet at its greatest is about the command of space as much as the command of time (via music), and there was none of that in evidence.

marcel said...

it was also the first preview, not the opening night. go again and you'll find the plot/narrative and pace have changed. Oh yeah, there's a third act too