Review: Tango Moderno at the Orchard Theatre

Guest review by Debika Cutts

They are back! Strictly dance superstars Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone return to wow audiences with their fourth production – Tango Moderno – and they do not disappoint! Previous sell out shows have included Midnight Tango, Dance till Dawn and The Last Tango; very much an audience favourite, they have danced together for over two decades. The production, with the help of director and choreographer Karen Bruce, cleverly gives a modern twist to a 19th century traditional Argentinian dance. It works superbly well.

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

The story tells of “Cupids of Tango” – Flavia and Vincent – who encourage the singleton characters in the show to go out and find love. It reflects, in its prose and through the dance, the perils of modern day society who are reliant on mobile phones and social media dating sites such as Tinder, and addresses the issues of commuting, loneliness and even a world which includes Donald Trump.

The scene of the story is set through the medium of a narrator – the talented Tom Parsons – whose prose and poetry is sublime and whose renditions of modern day pop songs excellent. Any performance which includes an Ed Sheeran classic – Shape of You – is bound to excite an audience of any age and persuasion! Other songs not necessarily expected from a tango-inspired show, yet which work well, include popular hits Human by Rag n Bone Man, Seven Years by Lukas Graham and The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars, and are a hit amongst younger viewers.

Vincent and Flavia’s chemistry and professionalism during the duos is an absolute pleasure to watch. Vincent had not been able to perform in last year’s shows due to an injury but now he returns to top form thankfully, as he does what he does best. Flavia’s performance is particularly breathtaking and the intensity of the kicks and movement is spine tingling with the pair fusing together ballroom, Latin and Argentinian tango.

The pair are supported by a talented cast of dancers who mix street, hip hop, jive and contemporary to produce an energetic and entertaining story for the audience. If you are expecting to just see tango then this isn’t the show for you – you get so so much more. This is a show that showcases the talents of the written word through Tom Parsons, the incredible voice of Rebecca Lisewski who truly is a highlight of the show, the talent of accomplished violinist Oliver Lewis whose performance of the Flight of the Bumblebee drew gasps of surprise and received lengthy applause, many different genres of dance and of course the reason for this show – Flavia and Vincent.

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

There are a couple of moments in the show that some may class as cheesy perhaps – the dancers coming out in wheelbarrows, shopping trollies and lawnmowers as an example – but the enthusiasm and talent make up for this and the point of their reflections are well understood and appreciated by the audience. I’m not sure it’s purely a show on tango – perhaps naming the performance Cupid’s Dance Moderno would be more apt?

Saying that, the classical tango finale is definitely purely tango in its truest form and worth the anticipation. A haunting and mesmerising dance showcasing our main stars’ phenomenal talent. The lighting is just right, the music is just right and the dancing and chemistry as they perform the classical tango has the audience up on their feet.

A wonderful show and great performances by a strong cast. Highly recommended.

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.