Cruise at Duchess Theatre
After what feels like an eternity, theatre is finally back. An obvious, practical choice as we reacclimatise ourselves with normality is a monologue. Enter Jack Holden with his self-penned one-man show about a homosexual man in the 1980s. After the runaway success and acclaim of It’s A Sin, and the attention it brought to such a tragic period of gay history, there is a reignited desire for artforms that address and tackle HIV and the Aids crisis.
When Holden’s character Michael is diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus, he is told he has four years to live. On what should be his last night on earth, our protagonist decides he’s going to go out with a bang, making his goodbyes, dancing, singing and saying yes to everything! Thus begins a journey that takes us to a myriad of locations and introduces us to various colourful characters along the way.
The actor and writer once worked for an LGBTQ+ helpline and from this experience and the many encounters it provided, he has created a powerful piece of drama that is unafraid to confront very real and raw issues. While we are of course encouraged to be empathetic, what works so well here is how the playwright turns the work into a celebration of life and of queer culture. It’s unapologetically romantic and captures the thrills of 80s Soho as well as homing in on the more heart-breaking aspects.
It’s a fast-paced production that easily holds our attention for the 90-minute runtime. Enhanced by Holden’s injection of infectious energy and the confident and innovative direction of Bronagh Lagan, the show manages to pack in a great deal. The actor is utterly entrancing throughout, delivering a powerhouse performance. The piece is made richer by a live soundtrack courtesy of John Elliot and vibrant lighting design by Jai Morjaria.
Intricate research has been conducted here, affording the play a deep authenticity and a respectful sensitivity which honours the members of the LGBTQ+ community who were taken too soon. A memorable, moving experience that simply needs to be seen, Cruise is a reminder of the unique power of live theatre and the strength, courage and resilience of a gay generation.
Photo: Pamela Raith
Cruise is at Duchess Theatre from 18th May until 13th June 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.