Review: The Last Tango at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Not quite a musical, not just dance. Nor is it quite a play. The Last Tango is a curious hybrid of all three – a moving and evocative story told through dance, mime and song.
It’s not quite what I expected. The former Strictly Come Dancing stars and world champion dancers Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace have a long history with the Argentine tango, and I’d expected full-on passion and drama, seduction and sexiness. Sequins, lace, legs, arms, necks, bodies… you get the picture.
But this was lyrical and lovely, soft and sometimes sad. It follows the story, set just before the Second World War, of a young couple who meet and fall in love.
The tale is cleverly told by the great Teddy Kempner, who plays an older (and slightly more portly) Vincent, reminiscing about his life and the special times they shared. He’s seated in a tatty old red armchair in his attic, high above the dancers below, as he roots through boxes of keepsakes.
The story moves through pre and post-war Britain, with Vincent going off to war in an emotional and touching scene, and returning to a passionate reunion. There’s a wedding, and the births of children, Christmases, birthday and other celebrations along the way.
There are moments of tenderness and passion in this love story, and also merriment and humour, and each of these is loudly evoked through the dance and the music.
There’s a fantastic live band, and a sensational (and, it must be said, a rather hunky) solo singer, Matthew Gent, who croons his way through the eras, from Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ and Burt Bacharach’s ‘Magic Moments’ to ‘Raise the Roof’ and ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’.
Vincent and Flavia are supported by a troupe of fabulous ensemble dancers who keep energy high as they take us through a range of dances including the waltz and jive, and of course the Argentine tango. But this is Vincent and Flavia’s show, and as you’d expect from a pair who have danced together for 20 years, they move together beautifully, at times as though they’re one. And naturally, they are amazing to watch with their razor sharp kicks and flicks.
For Vincent and Flavia, performing in Woking must have felt a little like coming home. Flavia was five when she started dance lessons at a local dance school in Guildford, working her way up through the ranks to when she started competing at 14, and met Vincent. They’ve danced together ever since – on the world circuit, on the telly and touring.
This show – their last – is directed and co-choreographed by the Olivier Award-winning Karen Bruce, a former choreographer on Strictly and in the West End, who also worked with Vincent and Flavia on their previous two tour shows, Midnight Tango and Dance Til Dawn.
The costumes were by another Strictly stalwart, Vicky Gill, who beautifully captured fashions from pre-war to the late Fifties. Although due to the era, there’s not much of the over-top-glamour we usually associate with ballroom dancing. Until, that is, the last tango. It comes after the curtain call, and this really is the dance we’ve all been waiting for. It was simply stunning. And that dress…
The Last Tango is now at the Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JG, until 3 December. phoenix.londontheatres.co.uk