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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away,
Danish author Hans Christian Andersen
wrote a fairy tale called The Most Incredible Thing.
More than 140 years later, it inspired electronic pop legends
The Pet Shop Boys to write a score for a brand new full-length dance work.
Renowned choreographer Javier De Frutos
was then tasked with bringing this magical story to life.
At the heart of this is a pop group - The Pet Shop Boys -
who want to do something more serious and that's a reflection
of how boundaries are breaking down between classical and pop and rock.
# When I look back upon my life... #
Since 1989, we've tried to do shows that have film and dancing
and this show, actually, is a very natural lineage
from the show we did with Derek Jarman in 1989.
# For everything I long to do... #
What's interesting is to take the elements of classical ballet -
the story telling - and do it in a different form of dance.
We've written the score so that it can meet the world
of contemporary dance and the fairy story brilliant world of Hans Christian Andersen.
Having developed the idea
with friend and former Royal Ballet star Ivan Putrov
the three took it to Saddler's Wells Theatre in London
where work began on transforming the original tale into 90 minutes of dance.
We realised it would be impossible to write just to the three pages
that Andersen had written, so we approached what's called a dramaturge.
Is anyone familiar with that word? Ha! Anyway...
Ooh, he's a right dramaturge! Dramaturge.
Neil said something quite interesting.
He said, "I want something that we can take to Vegas."
It was quite liberating for me.
I realised that I was writing into a very big canvas.
It is trying to do something new with a narrative ballet, no doubt.
And I think that's why Javier was interested in doing the project,
because this is his chance to work with his contemporaries.
I didn't want to treat it as a fairy tale.
I wanted to treat it as a very good story.
And therefore, what I felt was important was to really find
the right vocabulary.
It has a very classical structure, just painted in a different manner.
The influences come thick and fast.
I'm very Tarantino-esque when it comes to the things I like. I like my references.
The creative team also referenced a lesser-known fact
about the Danish writer. That he made beautiful paper cuts which he unfolded
while telling his fantastic stories.
This element of the writer's story-telling inspired the design.
We developed a strong idea
of the paperiness of Hans Christian Andersen's work.
I didn't want anything too solid.
We wanted to tap into a fairytale aesthetic.
Another key contributor to the production was artist and film-maker Tal Rosner.
His specially-created films
and animations provide a further story-telling layer.
The biggest challenge is not interfering too much
with what's happening
and still have a voice that, you know, stands out.
It's very challenging but also really fun.
You're thinking about it as part of an ensemble.
It's part of an ensemble, you know, and that's what's fun about it.
The first six minutes tells you everything about the basis of the story.
It tells you there's a kingdom
and there's people working daily in a hard fashion, having to just get by,
and there's the announcement and everybody starts to try and create the most incredible things.
We start in Act One with Leonardo in the factory. He's a nobody.
He's an inventor. He loves getting back home to work on his creations.
I play the princess. She's about 16, I think.
She's incredibly head-strong. A free spirit.
A bit of a rebel.
She lives in a world that is incredibly strict
and people have been programmed to think the same way,
move the same way, work the same way, and she's not like that.
It is important to set up a fractured relationship between the father and the daughter.
To realise there are parental issues here because he's giving away half of the kingdom
and giving the kid to get married to whoever wins.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,
and welcome to the show The Most Incredible Thing.
Before, I had an obligation to present the futility
of a competition that is going to achieve nothing.
I think for Leo,
this is his X-Factor moment where he sees his life could be opened up.
It could change in an instant.
She's told by her father that she's the prize for the person
who can come up with the most incredible thing,
so she runs away and bumps into this man who, at first,
seems quite charming
and sort of smiles and she thinks, "There can be love," you know?
And quite quickly she realises that actually he's a bit of bad news.
Karl is the villain and the destroyer. Very strong character.
But Karl loses control of the world that he's in
and he wants to keep it together.
So anything that threatens it, he wants to destroy.
Later on, she then meets Leonardo
and suddenly she realises that there is a man that perhaps she's been
dreaming about in a romantic way.
There is actually that person who exists.
On one level it's a very traditional fairy story, in a kingdom
and a king and a princess
and you can imagine Tchaikovsky writing a ballet for it.
But also, it seemed to have more to it than just that
and there'd be depth to it. It wasn't just a story for children.
It was something that could appeal to people of all ages.
The greatest strength of the story is the message underneath
about the power of creativity.
And that it can't be squashed by physical force.
# Wasn't in when you called
# It's been so long since I heard from you
# Play the message you loved
# Sound fine about what to do
# And all the good times we had
# Why did they fade away?
# Babe, you hurt me so bad
# What have you got to say?
# You call me baby
# What do you want from me, baby?
# You call me baby What do you want from me, baby...? #
MUSIC STOPS ABRUPTLY
ETHEREAL WHISPERING: (We'll sing the songs of creation.)
(Invention flows like water from us through you.)
(We're here to help you, Leo...)
(Your memory of all you've seen, make manifest, all.
(We'll aid your mind, genius.)
(We'll sing songs of time and memory...)
(We're here to help you, Leo...)
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,
and welcome to the show The Most Incredible Thing.
You look like an incredible audience this evening,
which is no coincidence because this is an incredible show.
Incredible set, incredible contestants, incredible orchestra.
Looking jolly good down there, chaps.
Somebody else incredible out there this evening is our king.
How are you this evening, your majesty?
A big thank you to our sponsors, Makarov Vodka.
Remember - Makarov Vodka is A-OK!
Introducing our judges - Babushka,
Good evening, judges.
Tonight we're going to change one contestant's life with this big prize.
So, without further ado, I introduce to you Tina and Sparkle.
Congratulations, you're in with a chance.
Moving on to contestant number 27, it's Dimitri.
How are you this evening, Dimitri? He's nervous.
And what do you have for us? A dog?
Ladies and gentlemen, this is our fourth dog this evening.
Let's hope this one's incredible.
Chop, chop, Dimitri.
Better luck next time, Dimitri.
I have just heard that the fire-eater has been extinguished
and is OK, which is incredible.
Moving on to the next contestant,
it's Monkey Elliott.
Jolly good. How do you feel. Oh, steady on. Judges?
Next, ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Pavlov.
Hello, Pavlov, what are you going to do for us?
He's going to turn a towel into a swan. Fascinating.
Do you know what this reminds me of, ladies and gentlemen?
How Jesus turned water into wine.
How Christ walked on water and Lazarus rising from the dead.
We've got our very own miracle right here in this theatre.
Let's take a look, shall we?
Yes, but it's still a towel, isn't it, Pavlov?
Moving on to contestant 599,
it's Rocky Man.
How are you this evening, Rocky Man?
And what are you doing here?
Yes, he's balancing a rock on his head.
How long have you been doing it for?
For 25 years, apparently. And for heaven's sake, why?
Oh, Rocky Man...
Oh, dear. Ghastly. Dimitri, you're back.
What do you have for us now?
Fleas? From your dog, I suppose? Where are they?
Moving on to contestant 1,999, it's Kristov. Let's hope he's good.
Oh, I say, old chap? Are you all right? What's going on?
Erm... What do I do now?
Where's my cue card?
Oh, this is just ghastly...
Are you all right?
I've been here for three days and none of the acts are any good. Oh.
It's all just rubbish.
Act Two, we've got Leo with what he's created as the most incredible thing.
The idea is the clock is taking over Leonardo.
He becomes the clock, almost.
Then we open up to him revealing the clock to the whole audience.
How do you create the most incredible thing?
It's just like an impossible task, and terrifying, really.
It felt wrong to try and create it as a solid object.
It had to be elusive. It had to engage people's imaginations.
He has invented something that no-one in that kingdom had seen before.
What they hadn't seen before was the power of imagination,
as they had been a very repressed society. That clock doesn't tell the time.
He tells you the extraordinary things that have happened throughout time.
One is Adam, two is Eve, three's the sun, the moon and the stars,
four's the four season, ten is the Ten Commandments.
11, my favourite, is Apollo 11.
I sort of made equal the discovery of the most incredible thing
with an emotional state.
It's kind of, "Where were you when...?"
So, for me, where were you when? I remember that very clearly.
Watch the launch of Apollo 11 and then watch the walk on the moon.
All the things that make you feel emotions in such a great way
have to be the most incredible thing.
I quite like the seven deadly sins now, actually.
We just got so stuck on that. We didn't know what to do for ages.
Ten, which is the Ten Commandments,
which is a fantastic marriage between the live dancers on stage
and their top shot in a Busby Berkeley style of what they're doing.
12 is my favourite. I think it's a bit of a work of art in itself.
Number 12 is actually a list of over 300 artists that we compiled
among ourselves, in hoping to create and already start the debate of,
"Oh, I didn't see so and so,"
and "That person should have been there."
And you start compiling your own, in a subliminal way,
you start compiling your own incredible peoples list.
The one that always springs out is Banksy.
The Eagles, when I was young.
Definitely Pina Bausch.
-David Bowie probably is in there.
I'd say my family.
The whole creative team should be in cos they have been incredible.
-We're not in it, are we?
-I was worried in case...
The last name is Hans Christian Andersen.
It's a list that can never be finished, I believe.
four, three, two,
You shall not covet thy neighbour's husband or wife.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not steal.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not murder.
Respect your mother and father.
Remember the Sabbath.
You shall not blaspheme.
You shall not worship false idols.
I am the Lord, your God.
Ten, nine, eight - ignition sequence - seven, six...
five, four, three, two, one.
We have a lift-off! 32 minutes past the hour.
Lift-off of Apollo 11.
CROWD SHOUTS: Three, two, one...
Golly. Gosh, that really was a rather unexpected turn of events, wasn't it?
But, audience, you're still looking incredible.
Chaps in the orchestra are still looking incredibly dashing.
And our sponsors, who are still hanging in there.
Remember, Makarov Vodka is A-OK.
Let's go to our judges one final time
because I am sure we've found our winner.
Leonardo, how are you feeling?
And how do you feel that you've won half of the kingdom and the princess' hand in marriage?
He's totally lost for words!
Is that the clock? Fascinating.
Moving on with procedure,
Your Majesty, if you would like to come to the stage
to present your prize.
Are you happy with the outcome, Your Majesty?
This is an historic moment, ladies and gentlemen,
rather like the coronation of our good and kind king.
So, Your Majesty, what will be happening now?
Yes, thank you.
And there they go.
Ah, it's just come in from the PR department
that the king has declared a public holiday,
which will be called Leonardo Day.
And the royal factory has just gone into production
with royal wedding memorabilia,
such as caps, cups, mugs, T-shirts,
tea towels and napkins,
all available from the royal factory.
So, ladies and gentlemen, that's the end of this incredible event.
And for our viewers across the globe,
SHE CRIES OUT
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
Act Three brings us back to the beginning, but worse,
because those people had a glimpse of happiness.
At one point, they saw the possibility of a country changing in the hands of a dreamer,
and that's now not going to happen.
We've kind of opened up the space, it's much starker,
much more about the people and the kind of rhythm of their movement.
The kingdom itself is split
and we've also got the paper-cutting hands
and they're all plastered and bloody.
Visual signals that kind of say that things have shifted.
I use a lot of red
which is to symbolise that there's death and destruction
and blood and kind of the horror of the world.
You see the townspeople mourning for the fact that they've lost the inspiration
that might have come from the most incredible thing.
We see the black wedding,
when the princess is just about to get married to Karl.
Doom, gloom and depression.
You know, for her, life's over.
The black wedding ends with her being taken off
and supposedly being prepared for the first night of marriage.
At the end of that wedding, when they try to taunt Leonardo
who was been sent to jail,
the reappearance of the clock
which has actively reformed.
All the pieces that were broken and destroyed
have reformed in a new formation
and it literally eats Karl alive
with the help of the three muses.
The death is metaphorical.
His biggest punishment -
he's now part of the hour that he hated so much.
The muses kind of come back and they release me from prison
and they basically lead me back to the princess, in her room.
She comes on expecting Karl to walk into the room
and, erm...she gets a surprise tap on the shoulder
and it's Leonardo.
In that incredible moment, she actually gets on her knees
and asks him to marry her.
The 21st-century feminist has arrived.
The king announces the wedding almost with tears in his eyes.
You discover that he has repented, he has regretted
and is an incredibly proud father.
The daughter has taught him to relax more
and the kingdom will heal itself.
CUCKOO CLOCK CHIMES
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd