‘Holden is a remarkable tour de force …’
This is the kind of production that will likely consider itself to have performed well if it has encouraged people in their audience to open up – not necessarily to the Switchboard LGBT + helpline, which is widely featured throughout. Cruise, but to any suitable channel that can help them unload their experiences and tell their story. I made the mistake of judging a show by its program coverage: determining it as a one man show is at the very least a two-man show, with composer John Elliott on stage alongside Jack Holden , and of course, there’s a whole creative team and a production team that came together to make it all happen.
Based on Holden’s experiences of being a switchboard volunteer as an even younger man than he is now, Michael, a middle-aged caller, has his story dramatized through a soundscape that mimics the music of the era – that is, for those who frequented Old Compton Street and places in Soho in the late 1980s – as well as the lighting that represents nightclubs, the street and, in fact, the offices of the helpline. The show is, perhaps necessarily, very energetic: Holden voices a large number of characters, all part of Michael’s narrative – it’s easy to forget that there isn’t a whole company of actors on stage. .
No prior knowledge of the era is required as everything is tactfully explained in a fast-paced storyline that is both poetic and meticulously studied. There is also a certain relativity in more modern times: a large number of deaths occurred because of something for which there was no effective treatment, and there was a considerable amount of fear, some of which was. perpetrated by the media. There have been hospital admissions and funeral services, so the show runs through a full spectrum of human emotions, from sheer tragedy to the euphoria that comes from a combination of recreational drugs and a night out. in central London.
I did not, I hasten to add, find the experience exhausting – this is not the first show to enter the London theater scene to explore the AIDS crisis and its effects – but unlike Angels in America and Inheritance, this one is done and dusted off in ninety minutes. You could also argue that there is nothing new about a theater production that encourages people to live in the moment and make every day count. The story told is unlikely to be a fully factual narrative (not that it is not believable, but rather that it would be a very serious breach of confidentiality if all were true). With the Channel 4 television series, It’s a sin still in people’s memory, this production is a very insightful take on the events of an entire generation ago.
There is singing, there is dancing, there are roommates who don’t get along as well as they could. The rapport Holden has with the audience is remarkable, and at least the night I attended the show received a well-deserved standing ovation. It’s not perfect – the float between 2021 and 1988 started to squeak after a while – but Holden is a remarkable tour de force in this witty and absorbing production.
Comment from Chris Omaweng
Aria Entertainment and Lambert Jackson are delighted to announce that the world premiere of CRUISE will continue until June 13, 2021 with a press night on May 20. Written and performed by Jack Holden (War Horse, West End; Ink, Almeida Theater), CRUISE is an urgent, moving and inspiring new play with live music and spoken word.
Duchess Theater CRUISE Based on a true story Jack told while volunteering for Switchboard, the LGBTQ + listening service, this new play pays homage to a generation decimated by HIV and AIDS.
Produced by Aria Entertainment and Lambert Jackson.
Written by and with Jack Holden
Music and sound design by John Elliott
Director – Bronagh Lagan
Design – Nik Corrall
Co-designer – STUFISH
Lighting designer – Jai Morjaria
Movement – Sarah Golding
Additional sound design – Max Pappenheim
General Manager and Assistant Producer – Chris Matanlé for Aria Entertainment
3-5 Catherine St, Covent Garden, London WC2B 5LA
May 18 – June 13
Tuesday – Friday 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Press night: May 20 at 8 p.m.
Book your tickets at www.cruisetheplay.co.uk/