REVIEW: Cruise, Duchess Theatre

This honest and moving play is a great way to remind us all of the importance of theatre in highlighting stories such as these.

(c)Pamela Raith Photography

What a way to mark theatres reopening than this moving, heartfelt, honest and passionate piece of new writing from Jack Holden who also performs in this one man show – it acts as powerful reminder of how theatre is important in highlighting a wide variety of stories.

Set against the backdrop of the 1980’s AIDS crisis, Cruise is based on Holden’s own experiences of having worked at the Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline – in particular one story that soon led to an account of life in 1980’s Soho. In this particular story that is retold Michael is diagnosed with HIV and given four years at most to live – throughout you learn more about his life through vivid language that brings Soho to life as well as his relationship with Dave which becomes even more poignant as the story develops.

What makes this such a clever and moving piece of theatre is the way in which it has been structured, moving from the prospective of Jack who is nursing a hangover while trying to do his job at the Switchboard , blending beautifully into the story of Michael in a subtle and effective way. Throughout it is clear that Holden has used his own personal knowledge and research to bring just one of many countless stories like Michael’s to life – highlighted powerfully in the way in which Holden lists the names of those known to Michael who lost their lives to AIDS.

At the centre of it all, the audience can see just how emotionally invested Jack Holden is in bringing the story and characters to life. His warmth and charisma that he brings to each personality is extraordinarily engaging to watch as is the sheer energy to be found in his performance. It is clear that great care and attention has been given to each scene and time passes quickly in his company.

Directed with great energy and poignancy by Bronagh Lagan, you get a real sense of the passion and love that has gone into creating this piece of theatre from start to finish that it is difficult not to get emotionally invested in it (I will admit freely that I was so moved that I did shed a tear or two particularly towards the end). The 1980’s world of Soho that has been created through Jai Morjaria’s brilliant vibrant lighting design and  STUFISH Entertainment Architects set allows Jack Holden to transform easily into a multitude of characters in a stylish and seamless way that keeps the audience thoroughly invested in the story that is unfolding.

Overall, Cruise is a powerful piece of new writing that celebrates life, loss and love in an effective way that stays with you long after the show has finished.

By Emma Clarendon

Cruise will play at the Duchess Theatre  until the 13th June.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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