Review: The Last Tango at the Orchard Theatre

If, like me, your Saturday evenings feel a bit empty during the summer months – when you’re forced to leave the house for entertainment instead of the infinitely preferable option of curling up on the sofa with a cup of tea and Strictly Come Dancing for company – then you need to get yourself along to see The Last Tango. Strictly favourites Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace are performing together in their third and final theatre tour, and if you think that means it might get emotional… well, you’re right.

The Last Tango, directed by Olivier Award winner Karen Bruce, is a dance show, but it also tells a story – and what a story it is. The show opens with George (Teddy Kempner) poking around in the loft. What he’s actually looking for we never discover, but what he finds is a host of memories of the love story he shared with his wife, which then unfolds as George looks nostalgically on. Over the next two hours, we’re swept along on the couple’s enchanting, exhilarating journey, as they and an energetic ensemble tango, waltz, rumba and jive their way through the years, to a repertoire of classic tunes performed by a fantastic live band and singer Matthew Gent.

The Last Tango - credit Manuel Harlan
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

Vincent and Flavia have been dancing together for 20 years (they were winning competitions long before they joined Strictly in 2006), and it really shows; they have the most amazing chemistry, particularly when it comes to their speciality, the Argentine tango. Everything we’ve learnt to look out for when judging Strictly contestants from the comfort of our sofas is there in abundance – beautiful arms, great shaping, intricate footwork (my friend was keeping an eye out for heel leads, apparently) and incredible storytelling. This is not just good acting; the closeness between the two is real, and that makes the story much more powerful to watch than if its stars were just two strangers pretending to care about each other.

There’s really nothing not to love about this show; even the story, which could have been shoehorned to fit the choreography, is an uplifting and enjoyable tale of enduring love that could quite easily stand on its own. It’s funny at times – my particular highlight is the moment Flavia pops out four babies without once losing her figure – and at others desperately sad; I doubt I was the only one who welled up when George had to leave for the war, leaving his brokenhearted bride behind. But throughout everything that life throws at them, the couple’s love for each other never falters – and if the end of the story feels a bit predictable, the journey to get there is worth every second.

Flavia Cacace - The Last Tango -
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

Whether you’re a Strictly fan or not, it’s hard to deny that this is a pretty fabulous show. And though it may be the last we’ll see (in theatres, at least) of Vincent and Flavia as a partnership, it’s fair to say that with The Last Tango, they’ve ensured they won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

The Last Tango is at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, until Saturday 31st October.

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