Cruise at the Duchess Theatre: Press night review by Stephen Vowles

Written and performed by Jack Holden who brings an energy to the role that is controlled but also has an urgency that brings this story to life. Holden has a passion and flair for storytelling and making a very vivid statement about a period in life – circa 1980 to 1988 – that affected him and his circle of friends, lover, casual pick ups and Soho misfits and acquaintances. 

Holden plays Michael Spencer who is told because of his HIV status that he has only 4 years to live. So he decides to go out in style and have a night to remember in his favourite part of London where he lived and worked, Soho. The play interweaves political and social messages and how people dealt with a virus crisis that was getting out of control. This is a story about hope and coming to terms with your lot. 

It is a poignant study of a situation that a human being can find themselves in. A magnificent monologue, perfect in execution and the timing tight; almost turning into a soliloquy as the crescendo builds to the climax end speeches that are now in rhyming verse.

Clever use of original music composed and performed by John Elliot and the revolving set design by Stufish Entertainment to show the passing of the years and very impressive direction by Bronagh Lagan all added to the atmosphere and the magic of the play. 

The comedy elements of the story came thick and fast and very sincere. Loaded with observational quips that powered this trip down memory lane for Holden’s character as he explored how he valued friendship, overcame pain, both mentally and physically; heartfelt anguish and anxiety are all explored beautifully.

Holden gives an enthusiastic and energetic performance as he brings the Spencer character to fruition. He concludes with a comparison, and rightly so, to the new virus Covid and asks us to do what we all do best and that is to still go on our respective quests and journeys, and carry on, and indeed we do and must be seen to be doing so. A riveting performance.


Cruise runs to the 13th June at the Duchess Theatre, 3-5 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5LA. Ticket booking: 0330 333 4810 @CruiseThePlay 

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