REVIEW: The Last Tango, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday, February 13

The stars of the show
The stars of the show
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I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen Strictly Come Dancing.

Yes, not one episode of the behemoth of a prime time show that’s set people’s dancing feet alight and sparked a renaissance of Latin and ballroom dancing.

The Last Tango is at the Sunderland Empire. Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone.

The Last Tango is at the Sunderland Empire. Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone.

But you don’t have to be a fan of the show that saw Vincent and Flavia rise to prominence in sparkling fashion to appreciate the pulsating passion of this tour.

It’s the final theatre show from the fast-footed pair, following their previous two tours Midnight Tango and Dance ‘Til Dawn, and they’ve bowed out in style.

The storyline is subtle - don’t expect the strong narrative of a play or musical - but it’s a gentle way to weave together the array of dances. The scene is set by elderly George, played by Teddy Kempner, who hovers above the main stage as he rifles through his attic, in a clever and detailed set, stumbling across items that evoke memories of his relationship with Flavia - we aren’t made privy to her character’s name.

They are backed up by a talented troupe of dancers and singer Matthew Gent, who takes you on a trip down memory line in top crooning form with instantly recognisable tracks including Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, Moondance and At Last.

The Last Tango

The Last Tango

But it is Vincent and Flavia upon who your eyes are fixed.

Theirs is a synchronicity honed over twenty years of dancing together and they move in beautiful unison together, at times almost as one.

Vincent is a charming yet commanding lead to Flavia as she slinks in his arms, mesmerising the audience with her lithe moves.

Their footwork is flawless, especially during one scene in which they pass a letter - which details George’s conscription to war - between their feet as though it isn’t there at all.

The dazzling duo

The dazzling duo

In a nod to the looming backdrop of war, they dance to the haunting theme from Schindler’s List. Not a word was spoken, but it didn’t need to be. It was a devastatingly beautiful moment as the pair glided across the stage forlornly as they prepare for their impending separation, against the strains of a live violinist. It was lump in the throat stuff.

But tango is, of course, the dance of love. And as those distinctive notes of the concertina kick in, Vincent and Flavia smoulder their way through this most passionate of dances in a way which almost transports you to the steamy hot streets of Buenos Aires.

For the dénouement, Flavia swaps her diaphanous gowns and ‘40s-style pintuck frocks for a stunning sequined number which is simply dazzling. They wowed the Empire crowd, proving just why they were crowned Argentine Tango World champions.

It’s a short show, at less than two hours including the interval, and I could have watched the charismatic pair for longer. Much like the tour, we weren’t ready for these world-class performers to hang up their dancing shoes just yet.

Lady in Red

Lady in Red

As I’ve heard they say in Strictly, it’s a nine from me.

Katy Wheeler

The Last Tango is at the Sunderland Empire. Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone.

The Last Tango is at the Sunderland Empire. Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone.