Cruise at Duchess Theatre

Cruise is a one man show, written and performed by Jack Holden. It tells the story of Michael and his journey through the 80’s including his diagnosis of HIV, his 4 year countdown and surviving that countdown when others did not.

Cruise is centred firmly around queer culture in 1980’s with references to music, icons and locations in and around London but despite it being centred in the past Holden manages to make it feel relevant to now. Whilst it is brought up to date by Jack himself taking the call from Michael whilst working on Switchboard, the references to equality still ring true and of course the undertones of the fact that we are living with a virus now, albeit a very different one.

Pivotal to the success of the show is Jack Holden’s storytelling ability, both as a writer and as a performer. His talent in both regards is unquestionable. As a writer, the story has you gripped, it is peppered with human emotion, empathy, witty one lines and a real sense of humanity. This combined with his charisma on stage means that the show becomes gripping. On stage Holden’s flicks between not only his 2 main characters (himself and Michael) but many others that Michael meets on his journey through Soho in the 80’s. His ability to portray a multitude of people by changing his stance and accent is a feat in itself and the audience is always sure of exactly which character is on stage at that time.

The pace of the show is also very well considered. There are moments where Michael’s energy is infectious and the story really gathers speed but at other, more poignant moments, the audience are allowed to linger for on those moments to fully absorb what is happening.

The impact of the performance is assisted by the score which ranges from 80’s dance music to Top Gun and this gives the audience a firm sense of time and location. Most of the music is composed by John Elliott who is also on stage throughout, acting as our very own DJ. The music that crescendos around what Michael believes to be his last night helps create the sense of despair and urgency but also powerfully contrasts to the silence that echoes around the call centre when we are in the modern day.

The set and the lighting all play a part in helping this show succeed. At the centre of the stage is a rotating box which turns into everything from Jack’s desk where he takes the call from Michael, to karaoke bar stages and from nightclubs to recording studios. The constant rotating of this box helps give the idea of movement, of passing through, a nod to all of those that Michael encountered but didn’t make it through the epidemic themselves.

Cruise is a perfect demonstration of just what we have been missing with live theatre with a shared audience experience gone from our lives for the last year. This show educates, it pays tribute to gay veterans, it informs, it moves the audience from laughter to tears and back again…and our lives are all the richer for having plays like Cruise back in them.

Cruise is part of the Rising Stars Festival and is running until the 13th June at The Duchess Theatre. To find out more about Cruise and to book tickets you can visit their website here.

If you liked this review you might also like my review for A Killer Party, Abba Mania and Six.

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