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Review: Flying Into Daylight at Live Theatre

The latest play at Live Theatre ushers us into the mysterious and mesmerising world of Tango

*****
Mark Slater Summer Strallen as Virginia and Jos Vantyler as Marco in Flying into Daylight
Summer Strallen as Virginia and Jos Vantyler as Marco in Flying into Daylight

While the theatre world at large has gone panto, Live Theatre – as ever, daring to be different – has gone Tango.

As we learn from Ron Hutchinson’s play, inspired by a true story, this is much more than a dance. It is a way of life as seductive as any drug – although this may have something to do with the fact that it is taught by men like Marco.

Virginia is from Buckinghamshire. She has, we understand, a mundane job, even if selling Francis Bacon paintings in an auction house is hardly your run-of-the-mill, and she also has – no dispute here – a dull fiance, Phil.

Virginia needs something else in her life and once a whiff of the Tango tantalises her senses, that’s it! She’s out of a job and on the next flight to Tango’s capital city, Buenos Aries.

Poor Phil. The English temperament has given us Morris dancing which, as a breathless Virginia would tell you, is no competition for a South American rival that involves touching, strutting and nostril flaring.

Marco is the kind of man who makes Morris dancing-inclined English blokes nervous. And rightly so, on this evidence.

“Can you feel my heart beating, Virginia from England?” he instructs in a way that would get a pasty Englishman a slapped cheek.

Scoundrel! This is the kind of line Shirley Valentine fell for and lies in wait for every teenage girl en route to the summer beaches of the Med.

But as well as being a play about Tango, Flying into Daylight is about daring to follow the dream.

Virginia, we learn, has another reason for embracing life in such dramatic fashion but we can all take something from this gem of a play, even if it’s a promise to not just watch ‘Strictly’ but get out there and try it.

Buoyed by Hutchinson’s witty and insightful script, director Max Roberts assembled a top team. Summer Strallen, who is Bonnie Langford’s niece and has toured with Anton Du Beke, is no dance rookie but she gives a very nice performance as an Englishwoman swept off her (aching) feet.

If she was a great catch, so was the scintillating Jos Vantyler.

He is one to watch in every sense of the word, morphing smoothly from Marco, the Tango-teaching martinet, to anxious Phil. He also, with great aplomb, takes on all the other male cameos.

The third performer on stage much of the time is lugubrious bandoneon player Julian Rowlands whose music, by turn passionate and plaintive, provides another vital voice.

All unfolds on Gary McCann’s wonderfully atmospheric set. With its cracked tiles and fairy lights, it is reminiscent of all those exotic restaurants where the food comes cheap and cheerful and the waiters ply the pretty girls with extra parmesan.

The night I was at Live, you could have heard a pin drop before the final applause allowed for a mass exhalation of breath.

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