Suddenly it’s tango time. The Latin American dance is the beating heart of two very different stage shows that are current North East talking points.
At the launch of Live Theatre’s July-December programme, playwright and screenwriter Ron Hutchinson and actress Victoria Fischer talked about a new play called Flying Into Daylight which will have its world premiere at the Newcastle venue in November.
They laughed and said it will be nothing like Strictly Come Dancing.
If you find that disappointing, best buy a ticket instead for Dance ’Til Dawn which comes to the Theatre Royal next week and stars ‘Strictly’ favourites Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace.
Set in the 1940s, the ‘golden age of Hollywood’, it features a medley of dazzling dance routines including, we are promised, the couple’s signature Argentine tango.
No doubt it will set feet tapping and pulses racing. Probably it will be a little bit sexy in parts. Well, tango apparently translates as ‘touch’ and it is a sexy dance. Isn’t it?
At Live Theatre Victoria insisted: “Funnily enough, it actually is not. The tango you see on Strictly Come Dancing is very highly choreographed and very different to what you see in public spaces in Argentina.
“That is much more low key and not so much meant for show.”
Victoria knows about the tango. She told an extraordinary story about how she took it up four years ago when she had to learn it for a play she was appearing in.
“I just connected with this dance and when the play finished I flew to Buenos Aries to learn to dance it properly.”
It was a critical time in her life. She had had an operation to remove her over-active thyroid gland – a thyroidectomy – and had suddenly felt well again. Gone was the wearniess and the desire to nap. So she took off to Argentina “without knowing anyone and not speaking Spanish”.
She decided to stay an extra week, even though she didn’t have quite enough of the medication she was supposed to take every day.
Victoria lived to tell her tale and among those who heard it was Ron, author of a play called, a touch ironically, Dead On Her Feet, in which she was appearing.
It struck a chord with him. “I liked the transformational element of the story,” he said.
Also, he suddenly kept hearing echoes of Victoria’s story in other people’s accounts of their lives. It resonated with him because his first wife had suffered from a brain tumour.
But it came home to him with a thump in January when his 19-year-old daughter, at home in the United States, was also diagnosed with a similar problem and has recently undergone treatment. Mercifully, it seems she has made a good recovery and recently Ron took her back to college in New York.
Out of all this has come a play of subtle complexity. “It’s about tango, thyroid cancer and Francis Bacon,” said Ron.
That’s Francis Bacon in whose portraits sitters could appear looking like the wares in a butcher’s shop.
It’s about somebody trying to understand how to live when their body has transformed itself, through illness, against their will, said Ron.
Victoria talked about the restorative power of tango with its “set of rules” and mentioned someone who had learned to walk again through taking it up.
Flying Into Daylight is a Live Theatre production “based on an original story by Victoria Fischer”. It will be co-directed by Ron and Live artistic director Max Roberts and it will be choreographed by Lee Proud who has had a long association with the stage version of Billy Elliot.
New music will be composed and performed by Julian Rowlands who will also demonstrate the bandoneon, an essential tango instrument.
Here’s the plot in a nutshell: “Virginia has a decision to make: whether to continue with the comfort and security of her mundane life or to gamble – to walk out on everything she knows, get on a plane, travel 12,000 miles to Buenos Aries and learn the tango.”
Victoria, a Londoner enjoying her first visit to Newcastle, may audition. Ron, born in Northern Island but now living in the States, said he learnt to drink with Geordies.
They make for a good audience, as he will find when the play opens on November 27.