Pet Shop Boys are not to everyone’s taste – I appreciate that many people find house music unsubtle, but it was always my brainless sound of choice. However, Pet Shop Boys are far from brainless; their score to ‘Battleship Potemkin’, performed in Trafalgar Square, was excellent, and pointed the way to new avenues, and this modern dance/ mixed media show is a genuinely thrilling experience.
I had tried to get tickets last year and missed it, but the production opened to sniffy reviews from traditional ballet critics and – like all genuinely innovative ideas – found itself trapped between two genres, unloved by those who regarded themselves experts in either.
The tale, a late and quite dark 3-page Hans Christian Anderson story, is about a king who seeks to find ‘the most incredible thing’ for his kingdom and his daughter’s hand in marriage, but the suitor, a miraculous clockmaker, has his work destroyed, which is in turn a more incredible thing. The tale is beautifully served by a graceful, elegant and occasionally pounding score, and matched by idea-filled dance pieces. In the original story the shattered clock’s characters kill the man who destroyed them, but here we have less traumatic outcome.
If it doesn’t quite move the heart, it certainly drops the jaw and feasts the eye in the way that Damon Albarn’s ‘Monkey’ failed to do. The show has been reworked from its last appearance in London, and the first half climaxes with a spectacular sequence as the clockmaker’s figures literally start time, cycling through the creation, the seasons, the commandments and the seven deadly sins to a lunar landing – but in many ways the best moments are the smaller ones, particularly a love duet that stands brilliantly on its own merits as a fine piece of modern dance from award-winning choreographer Javier de Frutos.
Unfortunately, the night I saw it they had problems with the computer controlling the extremely complex video projection, but even without the phantasmagorical visuals it was a treat. The double CD is available, but the DVD never materialised although an early (and far inferior) version of the whole thing can be found on YouTube.