Electric, animated, compelling. These are some of the many words that I could use to describe Jack Holden’s Cruise, directed by Bronagh Lagan. Holden’s words and performance contain so much meaning and emotion in them that all I could do as a reviewer was sit, listen and try to absorb as much as I could. Because this show is an experience in itself.

There’s a magic, an otherworldliness that is created, making this show extremely hard to shake it off once it ends

Set during a shift at the LGBTQ+ charity, Switchboard, Cruise is a collection of stories told from the perspective of Michael (Jack Holden) as he navigates the clubs and nightlife of 1980s Soho and the people who he meets along the way that help him to cope with love and loss, culminating in his self-declared ‘last night on Earth’. Switching between past and present, Holden grounds us in the story, making sure we are able to distinguish between the two.

Between Prema Mehta’s lighting and John Patrick Elliott’s sound design, a Williams-esque dream landscape is created, from neon lights that would normally fit anywhere else but a stage, but look right at home in Mehta’s design; to the synth beats and live music that create a backdrop and beat to Holden’s narrative. The industrial feeling of the neon and otherwordliness of the music create a dichotomy that emphasise some of the more emotional and powerful moments, of which there are many.

Holden’s words and performance is unbelievable. Filled with intense highs and intense lows, there is a certain wryness and humour throughout, even in the saddest moments. Holden uses every literary tool at his disposal, his mastery of language only rivalling that of Shakespeare. He’s a natural storyteller, seen in the way that he creates an incredibly rich world for us, filled with places and characters that take on their own appearance, quirks and personalities, that it’s hard to believe that it’s not just Holden up on the stage. It’s intensely spectacular the way Holden manages to play on our emotions, evoking extreme pathos in the simplest of lines or moments. He has a boundless, restless energy, which we can see as he takes on the immense physical task of the performance, from the endless movement to climbing different parts of Nik Corrall’s set as he takes us into the heart of 1980s Soho from thin air.

Cruise is frankly unbelievable. There’s a magic, an otherworldliness that is created, making this show extremely hard to shake it off once it ends. An Angels in America for a new age, Cruise is most definitely one of the best pieces of theatre that I have had the honour to watch.

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Reviews by Katerina Partolina Schwartz

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The Blurb

February 29th, 1988. Soho, London.

‘A tour de force, the toast of the town’ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (The Telegraph)

Following rave reviews, the 2022 Olivier Nominated Cruise returns to the West End for a strictly limited run.

CRUISE is the true story of what should have been Michael Spencer’s last night on Earth.

When Michael is diagnosed with HIV in 1984, he’s told he’ll have four years to live. So, with the clock ticking, he and his partner, Dave, decide to sell their house, flog the car, spend everything they have and party like it’s the last days of Rome.

On the last night of his four year countdown - the 29th February, 1988 - Michael decides to go out with a bang. He puts on his favourite jacket, heads for Soho, and embarks on a long night of farewells. He dances, sings, and says yes to everything and everyone. Then, with all his affairs taken care of, Michael promptly… survives.

Based on a true story and centred on one night in Soho, CRUISE is a celebration of queer culture; a kaleidoscopic musical and spoken word tribute to the veterans of the AIDs crisis; an urgent piece of theatre, with an irresistible 80s soundtrack, which will make you laugh, cry, and which inspires us all to live every day as if it’s our last.

Important COVID-19 information

This venue has additional Covid-19 safety measures in place to ensure the health and well-being of the staff, performers, and guests.

We recommend that you wear a mask while inside this venue.

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