The Most Incredible Thing – and It Is

On Monday I took in The Most Incredible Thing,  the new ballet from the Pet Shop Boys and Javier De Frutos. Neil and Chris have adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s dark 1870 fairy-tale and given it a score that included driving house and four-square beats that took me all the way back to the 1988. The dance and staging were superb, and I grinned through the performance.

But, of course, this is not a review, it’s a creativity blog. And Anderson’s fairytale has a lot to say about creativity. Really. It has.

The story is a simple one. A King offers his daughter and half his kingdom to the person who can show him the most incredible thing. The competition, staged in the ballet as a soviet-style, vodka-fuelled Britain’s got-talent cringe-fest, is in essence to produce the most creative artefact. The winner is Leo, who creates a magical clock than entrances all.

The most creative thing? Not in this dark tale, alas. Karl, a psychopathic military nut, destroys the clock and imprisons Leo. And according to the rules of the competition, he is deemed the winner. Because the most incredible thing was to destroy the most incredible thing.

So is the destruction of something creative, well, creative? Do we have to reject what was once creative in order to be creative anew? My first reaction was, of course, no.

But on reflection, I think Mr Andersen was onto something. To create new, we often need to be dissatisfied with the current – what was once created.  So we don’t need to destroy it, but we might reject it turn that corner, in order to create.

By the way, don’t worry about Leo. The magical clock rebuilds itself and destroys Karl, leaving Leo to marry the King’s Daughter, and they all live happily ever after.

But it does leave me to think – was destroying the most incredible thing that destroyed the most incredible thing the most incredible thing?