Cruise takes us on a journey bound for the karaoke bars, dirty dives, and rave dens of 1980s Soho and lets us fall head over heels and overboard in love with lust, life, and listening. As a volunteer at Switchboard, a helpline for LGBTQ+ people, Jack (Jack Holden) methodically and melodically paints his real and imagined memories on stage after picking up the phone to Michael, a queen who recounts their biggest night from 1986.
Amongst the millions of covid-related monologues to surface in post-pandemic theatre (that often make you want to jump ship) Cruise is the shining beacon of funny, frank, and real that we all need in such a sea of monotonous memorandum. This is timeless theatre.
In his performance, Holden excels. The characterisation, generosity, and stamina of the man are ludicrous. The transition between the multitudes of fantastic and very real characters is seamless and one can not help but fall in love with them all.
Holden’s script is poetic and present. Moments of utter magic happen as these literary globules of crystalised genius combine with the sound (John Patrick Elliott and Max Pappenheim), the lighting (Prema Mehta), the set (Nik Corrall and Stufish Entertainment Architects), and the movement (Sarah Golding) that feel completely immersive. An impressive feat for proscenium staging. The vocabulary is electrifying and so is the composition.
Despite being a 100-minute monologue with one man ruling the stage, Cruise is a beautiful collaboration of artists. Composed and performed by John Patrick Elliott live onstage, the musical backdrop allows him to disappear into his composition, somehow being both invisible and omnipresent. Director Bronagh Lagan knows how to fill a stage, managing to create these winding journeys down every kind of street in Soho on a five-by-five revolve. The set is skeletal, with strips of neon lights and exposed wiring tangling themselves around the characters and the stories. The lighting is both carefully calculated and blinding with simple projections and colours flooding the tales and enhancing each emotion.
Undeniably deserving of the standing ovation, Cruise is intelligent. Inspiring. Incredible.
It runs until 4 September.
Review: Vivienne King Photos: Pamela Raith