Melissa Blease reviews Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s Tango Moderno, on at Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 3 February

Call me an old fuddy duddy (I’ve been called far worse,) but to my mind, the Tango – the passionate, complex, richly synchronised partner dance that originated in South America circa 1880 – is a sensual, exciting, emotive spectacle to behold… and it doesn’t need tampering with, nor “moderno-ing” in any way.

But if Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace – two of the most successful, highly regarded, world title-holding Ballroom, Latin American and Argentine Tango performers and choreographers in the UK (oh, and they’re both past Strictly Come Dancing professionals, to boot) – decide to shake the Tango about a bit, who am I to argue?

On their latest tour, Vincent and Flavia take us on a supposedly romantic journey with them as they play Cupid to four young couples who have, apparently, been sadly let down by their home lives, their work lives… and Tindr. We have a tour guide/narrator in tow in the form of modern day troubadour Tom Parsons, who wanders around the set (a sparse but flexible urban tableau complete with grafitti-adorned garage door) linking each scene together to a performance poetry beat.

There are cover versions of classic songs from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Percy Sledge, Rag’n’Bone Man, Nina Simone, Bruno Mars and Michael Buble; there’s a spectacular live band hidden away behind the bricks and barbed wire; Flavia’s frocks are princess-pretty; and violinist Oliver Lewis delivers a couple of breathtaking, white-knuckle-ride solos that attest to his title of world record holder for the fastest performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee.

And of course, in amongst the all kinds of everything that’s going on, there’s lots and lots of dancing, including fabulous Foxtrots, slinky Salsas, wonderful Waltzes and more, all impressively tightly choreographed and immaculately executed.

It’s a great shame, then, that the vignettes that carry the show along and supposedly depict modern life aren’t quite so imaginatively rendered.

When they’re not glued to smartphone screens, young people are apparently mostly either attempting to be Banksy or Jay Z, while suburban housewives wearing rubber gloves and pinnies compete with the neighbours over who has the cleanest front step. An apparently sex-mad, hysterical, gurning party hostess is dragging a lonely young man away from his microwaved meal-for-one. A woman who falls in love with another woman is leaving her man holding their two tiny babies while a rainbow flag wafts in the breeze above her head. Gosh – none of this is very ‘moderno’ at all.

But then, right at the end, a supremely beautiful, elegant moment brings us back to right here, right now. In the most memorable way as singer Rebecca Lisewski teams up with Parsons to offer a heavenly rendition of Ewan McColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face while Vincent and Flavia do their Strictly magic thing. Wafting and floating around the stage on feather-light feet, reversing and dipping and holding and gliding and lifting and just… just strictly dancing, in a performance that would doubtless earn a 10 from even Craig Revel Horwood. At last, I knew that I’d finally been properly tangoed.


Main image: Manuel Harlan