Cruise at the Duchess Theatre – Review

Cruise The Play at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End Theatreland

As life returns to stages around the West End, the timing is perfect for the staging of Cruise to be one of the first shows to appear. Written and performed by Jack Holden, Cruise is a rollercoaster ride through the joy and terror of the vibrant queer lifestyle in Soho in the late 80s, just as a terrible and tragic virus begins to impact upon the scene.

Taking centre stage at the Duchess Theatre alone, except for Musician and DJ John Elliot, Cruise returns us to the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic and paints a vivid reminder of the hedonistic lifestyle that was enjoyed at a time, now lost to us. This is particularly poignant, given the changes in our own lives due to the much more recent Covid-19 virus that has kept us all hidden away for so many months.

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Holden tells that his inspiration came from his time manning the lines of an LGBTQ switchboard, and he positions himself in Cruise as an inexperienced younger man, lacking any deep understanding or empathy for the plight of the callers. In his time there he would eventually speak to the man he calls ‘Michael’.

Diagnosed with HIV in 1984 and given a maximum of four years to live, Michael and his partner decide to sell their house and live like there is no tomorrow. When his partner, Dave, dies just two years later, Michael dives deep into blowing through the remainder of his money on drink and drugs as he continues on his 4-year countdown to death.

Catch Jack Holden at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End Theatreland

Michael’s misguided belief that no one lives past 4 years once diagnosed with HIV leads him to head out to party hard and make his farewells with a final hurrah! But Michael survives. He is one of the lucky ones. He has another shot at life, but what kind of life can he make it?

Holden slips between narrator and the characters that he treats gently upon the stage. The performance is clothed in warm humour and the language is energetic and sharply depicts the lost scenes of Soho in the 80s and the people that inhabited that time and space. Through a kaleidoscope of music and spoken word, Cruise pays tribute to those that had died or would go on to do so.

Cruise The Play at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End Theatreland

The performance tone is urgent, loving and pays tribute to the lost men of the AIDS epidemic. It is an enjoyable tour-de-force with a vibrant soundstage and an excellent 80s soundtrack that will make you laugh and cry. If you loved The Inheritance, you’ll fall in love with Cruise.

Cruise is directed by Bronagh Lagan, written and performed by Jack Holden, who is also joined by John Elliott on stage as DJ. Set Design by Nik Corrall and STUFISH Design Architects. Lighting by Jai Morjaria. Movement by Sarah Golding, and Max Pappenheim provides Additional Sound Design.

Cruise The Play at the Duchess Theatre in London's West End Theatreland

Make sure you catch it before the end of its run on Sunday 13 June! Book your tickets HERE.

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