A round-up of reviews for Cruise, now playing at the Apollo Theatre in London.
Written during the lockdowns by Jack Holden, the show was the first to open in the West End following the Covid shutdowns, and is now back in the West End a year later.
Nominated for a 2022 Olivier Award for Best New Play, Cruise is running at the Apollo Theatre for a limited season until 4 September 2022.
Cruise is billed as an urgent, moving and inspirational play that pays tribute to a generation decimated by HIV and AIDs, and is based on a true story Jack was told whilst volunteering for Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ Listening Service..
The play is written and performed by Jack Holden (Ten Per Cent, War Horse), directed by Bronagh Lagan (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice; Little Women), with original music composed and performed live by John Patrick Elliott (The Little Unsaid).
Photo by Pamela Raith
"A hymn to the illicit pleasures and dangers of 1980s Soho"
"Jack Holden’s one-man play is a mixture of eulogy and fantasia, and though its spirit verges on over-indulgent, it’ll still sweep you along"
"One year on, with life returned largely to normal, that raw resonant power remains intact, the play an enduring life affirming tribute to a vanished queer history."
"Holden expertly controls the vertiginous shifts between tragedy and comedy, and plays every character, delivering a particularly bitter, beautiful drag-queen version of Is That All There Is, while composer John Patrick Elliott hammers out live a sexy, synthy soundtrack. There are better plays about Aids than this, but few have such an intoxicating spirit."
" Jack Holden’s ode to 80s queer culture is a one-man masterpiece"
"Jack Holden’s Cruise is a celebration of queer culture and a moving tribute to a generation lost to HIV"
"Holden, whose acting credits include War Horse and Ink, skillfully evokes the hidden underworld of London’s (second?) most notorious square mile - cocktails of drugs, illicit encounters in dubious locations and hedonistic partying - while simultaneously drawing an evocative picture of the powerful reality of a marginalised community, both terrified and stoic in the face of an unspoken crisis."
"Holden’s performance, directed by Bronagh Lagan, is captivating - whether he’s switching between accents, channelling his inner diva for a hysterical rendition of Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is, or dancing what he believes to be his last dance, he will have you laughing and crying in equal measure."
"As fresh and relevant as It’s A Sin"
"Above all else, Cruise is breathtakingly beautiful, set to the often toe-tapping, occasionally toe-curling beats of John Patrick Elliott’s electronic soundtrack, which, performed live on set, morphs with the storytelling of the show."
"Like It’s A Sin writer Russell T Davies, Holden’s genius is in creating a loveable and entirely tangible bunch of queer male characters for whom your heart bleeds, but who are joyous as well as tragic. They are realised abstractly, with Holden acting their parts but never wearing any make-up, and always remaining in casual modern day jeans and t-shirt."
"It’s a blistering ode to queerness, Old Compton Street, joy, resilience and escapism. I wonder whether his performances could have spent more time with the characters at their most frail, to paint a more shocking picture of the physical and mental realities of AIDS, but Holden has chosen not to wade too deeply into sadness."
"Cruise is the most essential gay play in town right now "
"Cruise is written by, and stars, Jack Holden – but it’s very much not a one man show; John Elliott has composed the original music for the play, and looks after sound design, and even performs much of the music live on stage. His is a constant presence which adds an extra depth and texture to many scenes, working as a DJ in a club or a guitarist in a music bar or a sound engineer at a studio. The music is absolutely integral to the play."
"What a performance it is from Jack Holden, though – not only is his text utterly superb, but the delivery is flawless. Endlessly energetic, his enigmatic performance had us captivated throughout."
"Jack Holden gives a tour de force performance'"
"Cruise is a stirring, core-shaking piece of work that is by turns uplifting, distressing, comical, caustic, and nostalgic for a bygone era"
"... Cruise isn’t mired in tragedy and despair. There are moments that tear at the heart but it’s also screamingly funny and a celebration of lives lived to the full, however long they may have lasted."