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Review | Cruise | HOME MCR | 25/07/2023

After enjoying two west end seasons, Cruise has found its way up north to Manchester. Cruise tells the true story of a man given 4 years to live, after a heart-breaking AIDS diagnosis in the 1980’s. Rather than simply accept his fate, Michael grasps the parts of life he loves, before planning to go out with a bang when those 4 years come to an end. This is sensitive love letter to 1980’s queer culture in London amid the AIDS epidemic.

We meet Jack, a 22 year-old gay guy who has recently started volunteering at Switchboard, a national helpline serving LGBTQIA+ communities. Whilst working alone, he takes a challenging and eye-opening phone call from an older man called Michael. The story is performed by one actor, Jack Holden, who based it off real stories he heard whilst volunteering at the charity.

I say ‘performed by one actor’, as it would be a disservice to call it a one-person show. Also on stage is musician John Patrick Elliott, who performs his self-composed electronic score; fusing everything from house music to synthesiser pop. For the first 10 minutes we are firmly in Jack’s world as a call handler in the modern day, giving a feeling of realism and calm. This is until Michael’s’ call comes in and John Patrick Elliott’s score abruptly catapults us into the 1980’s, with glam rock sounds pulsating through the walls of the theatre. Suddenly the stage is wonderfully lit in neon, with Prema Mehta’s remarkable lighting design becoming its own character as the show continues.

Holden succeeds where many one actor shows fail, making each character he portrayed utterly believable. Cruises sets the bar high for future one actor shows to aspire to. Using Nik Corrall’s rotating set, Holden takes us from present day to 1980’s London with ease. With a turn of the set in correlation with effective lighting, we are effortlessly transported from dancefloors to call centres and toilets to a drag performance. It is moments such as a drag performance that give the show an abundance of heart. It would be all too easy for a show like this to feel a little one note, however Holden has created a masterpiece which is wonderfully multilayered. The audience never doubt the character or location of any given scene, testament not only to Holden’s writing but the diligent work of the entire creative team. It juxtaposes comedy and light-hearted fun against more hard-hitting moments effectively and with ease.

We often see 1980’s queer culture portrayed on screen, but much less so on stage. It is refreshing to see a story like Cruise performed live in front of you, in a way that could never be portrayed via television or film. For those who didn’t live through the 1980’s, parallels are drawn between the AIDS epidemic and the more recent Covid Pandemic, allowing people to more easily relate and empathise. Yes, it speaks to the LGBTQIA+ community, but it is not exclusively for them alone. It has a beautiful overarching message of bringing together different generations and finding mutual respect and compassion for each other. Cruise is powerful, poignant and raw. This emotional rollercoaster is 100 adrenaline filled minutes that you absolutely can’t miss.

Cruise is on at HOME until Saturday 12 August 2023. See below for booking info:

You can read my exclusive interview with star and creator of Cruise by clicking below:

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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