Jack Holden gives one of the most spectacular performances I’ve ever seen.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Cruise, written and performed by the incredible Jack Holden, was the first new play to premier after lockdown in May of 2021. It was nominated for an Oliver Award for Best New Play. Returning to the West End at the Apollo Theatre, Cruise tells the story of Holden’s time volunteering for Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ hotline, and the riveting conversation he has with one of his callers, Michael. Michael then takes over the narrative for the majority of the show and leads us back to the eighties, shows us around Soho, and introduces us to a lot of interesting characters. The nature of the set allows Holden to travel through time and through London with ease. The middle of the stage rotates, becoming whatever he needs – his phone desk, a backdrop for a drag performance, or a dance floor in a club.

Credit: Pamela Raith

It was easy to forget Cruise is a one-man show because of two things, the first being Holden’s powerhouse performance. The amount of talent inside of this man is beyond my comprehension. An amazing writer, actor, and singer, Holden blew me away. He uses the entire stage, storytelling in his movements just as much as in his words. He embodies several different characters, and I felt he needed to bow as each character during curtain call as he plays every one with such distinction and depth.

The second reason Cruise feels like it has a full cast is because it does; they’re all just backstage. It took a large amount of people to put this stunning, multi-layered production together. I’d like to highlight one person who was actually on stage the entire time – the composer, sound designer, and live performer during the show John Patrick Elliott. His music was more than just an added soundtrack; it set the tone for each scene, telling the story just as much as Holden does. I felt myself rise and fall and inhale and relax with the music. The coordination of Elliott and Max Pappenheim’s sound design and Prema Mehta’s lighting design truly thrilled the senses.

Credit: Pamela Raith

The highlight of the show for me was the writing. At emotional heights, it became poetic, rhythmic, and rhyming. Holden honors those who have lost their lives to AIDS as well as those who survived. His tribute epitomizes in a scene where he is dancing for them and calling out their names in anguish. A reoccurring subject is the phenomenon that happens when there is a truly gifted DJ in a club, and you have the magical, spiritual experience of dancing to loud music and bright lights, and you can forget about the world.

The telling of the story over a phone call is ingenious; we, the audience, can react to it along 22-year-old Holden. He ends the show as himself in the present day, ten years after Michael called Switchboard. He says he wrote the play during lockdown, and relates the Covid pandemic to the AIDS epidemic – something those who didn’t live through the eighties can now better understand. I appreciated the insightful comparison he made without excessive talk about the pandemic, which is something I’m sure we’re all tired of addressing.

I was mesmerized by Cruise. I laughed, cried, held my breath, and had goosebumps. Holden had to pause twice during the show to allow the audience to clap, and he received a long standing ovation at the end. Cruise has a limited run at the Apollo Theatre until September 4; do not miss this extraordinary show!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply