As the artistic director of a theatre known for its fostering of world class new writing, Max Roberts is used to scripts landing on his desk.
What Live Theatre’s creative head honcho is perhaps not so used to, is feeling immediately minded to put one of them on the Live stage in a manner I’m assuming he files under ‘ambitious’.
“It is very rare indeed that I read a play and say ‘Wow, we should try and do this’,” he admits. “But that is exactly what happened when Ron Hutchinson’s new musical play Flying Into Daylight came to us.
“The raw, passionate and distinctive music and dance of the Tango aligned with a beautifully written, compelling and life-affirming narrative provides the basis of an inherently theatrical experience.” he adds.
You can see why I didn’t need asking twice to pop down to the theatre’s Undercroft snug to find out more about the play, which is underpinned by a true story, as well as and the passion of the Tango, of course.
There, I found Flying into Daylight’s leading man, award-winning stage actor, Jos Vantyler, fresh from a highly-charged photo shoot in the nearby Stephenson Works with his female counterpart, Summer Strallen, an accomplished dancer and multi-Olivier Award nominee herself.
Together they make up the two-strong cast for the production, which gets its world premiere on Tyneside in November. The challenge posed by the minimal nature of the cast isn’t lost on Jos.
“I mainly play Marco, the guy who teaches Tango and who runs the school in Argentina and is kind of the catalyst for Virginia (Summer) staying in the country. But I also play the partner back in England and other people on the course, and also Virginia’s father at one point. It’s a real mix. I play everybody’s point of view in a way, which is a challenge, but a really lovely thing to do also.”
The same could be said of the Tango, which Jos is learning for the role. “I think I made a breakthrough yesterday,” he says. “Once you hear that purring sound of the music, it never really leaves you. It’s like a calling almost. Then when you start to move as one and you’re in the embrace of it. It’s wonderful.”
He’s very convincing. “You should get yourself along to a milonga,” he says, speaking of the inclusive gatherings where the Tango is danced. “There must be one in Newcastle, they’re everywhere! I’ll take you when the play is on.”
Not sure how that happened, but on we go.
Landing the role offered Jos a second chance to work with aforementioned, and Emmy-winning screenwriter Ron Hutchinson. The pair last worked together on acclaimed play Dead On Her Feet, which explored the subject of dance marathons.
“It’s always about dance with me and Ron,” laughs Jos. “Ron writes wonderful speeches, wonderful monologues, wonderful arguments, wonderful humour. He’s one of those people who has a knack of doing everything incredibly well.” I intensely dislike him already.
“It was on that job that Victoria Fischer - who the story is based on - told him about the Tango. She was in that play with me, so it’s wonderful that it has come full circle.”
I’m conscious that we haven’t really touched on the plot yet. Let’s put that right. The play finds Virginia deciding whether to continue with the her mundane UK life or to walk out on everything she knows and travel 12,000 miles to Buenos Aires and learn the Tango for a bit. Sound far fetched? Well (aside from the mundane bit) that’s pretty much what actress Victoria did. After learning the Tango for a play she was appearing in, she took off to Argentina to “learn to dance it properly”.
“It’s a great story and an astonishing script,” promises Jos. “You read it and think ‘that’s an amazing play’. And then you realise there is all the dancing and the live music to go into the mix on top of that. The whole thing is just going to be the most engulfing theatre - especially in that intimate space,” she says, gesturing into Live’s main theatre. It will be a huge theatrical event.” You heard it (and will see it) here first.
Flying Into Daylight, with live music from Julian Rowlands and choreography by Amir Giles, plays at Live Theatre from November 27 to December 20. Call 0191 232 1232 or visit www.live.org.uk for tickets. There is also a series of events scheduled to accompany some performances.