Writer and performer Jack Holden talks to Stephen Vowles about the return of Cruise The Play to the West End

The intoxicating, vibrant Cruise is the true story of what should have been Michael Spencer’s last night on earth. Written and performed by Jack Holden, this bold, one-man show returns to the heart of Soho at the Apollo Theatre. Stephen Vowles asked Jack about Cruise, its story of HIV, how Covid has changed things – and about the 30 characters he plays.

Jack Holden

Are you excited about bringing back Michael Spencer and the other cast of characters from the world of Cruise in the revival of your bold one-man show? 

I’m thrilled to be bringing Michael and the kaleidoscopic characters of Cruise back to life! I get to play about 30 different people in the play – all of them mad, broken, funny, beautiful, musical creatures. It’s an exhausting, but brilliantly fun show to perform. Audiences will laugh, cry, gasp, and probably try to sing along to the odd 80s floor-filler.

Has the show been changed in any way since its run in 2021?

The script is almost exactly the same but, as we’ve moved to the bigger Apollo Theatre for this run, the show will be bigger, brighter, louder and prouder. It’s a big space to fill with just me and John (Elliott, composer and musician) on stage… but I think we’re up to the challenge!

Do you think the Covid pandemic changed your or your audience’s perspectives on the HIV/AIDS crisis?

I hope it did! It’s something I touch on in the play: how different the institutional responses were to HIV and Covid. The speed at which an effective vaccine was concocted was nothing short of a miracle. It’s deeply sad that such effort, determination and, above all, money wasn’t put into finding an HIV treatment in its early days. What’s also interesting is how people have become familiar with terms that gay men have always had to know: viral load, incubation period, positive, negative. In the long-term, I think it will help the wider public in their understanding of HIV.

Is the message of the play as a melting pot of fact, fiction and imagination still as important to you as an artist, actor, performer and writer? 

This play will always be incredibly important to me – my debut as a writer, the first new play to reopen the West End after lockdown, nominated for an Olivier, and, above all, telling a story from the heart of my community. I don’t necessarily think the play has a ‘message’ as such. It’s more of a snapshot of real life (with generous lashings of imagination), which hopefully inspires courage, defiance, self-expression and the bravery to love. I never set out to write a message play – but if people take something from Cruise, if they are moved in any way, that makes me very happy.

Lastly, tell Boyz readers why they should come see Cruise, and where it’s on?

What’s great about this run at the Apollo Theatre is that we’re right in Soho – where the play is set. The show is an ode to a lost generation of gay men, a celebration of all things House Music, and a love letter to 1980s Soho – with all its heady highs and emotional lows. I promise you’ll leave the theatre wanting to go out dancing! So come and watch us from the 13th August to the 4th September. And buy your tickets at

The story of Cruise The Play

Cruise is the true story of what should have been Michael Spencer’s last night on earth. When he’s diagnosed with HIV in 1984, Michael is told he’ll have four years to live – at most. So, with the clock ticking, he and his partner Dave decide to sell their house, flog the car, and spend everything they have to party like it’s the last days of Rome. When Dave dies two years later, Michael doubles down on his hedonistic ways, spending what little he has on drink and drugs. 

On the last night of his four-year countdown – the 29th February, 1988 – Michael decides to go out with a bang. He puts on his favourite jacket, heads for Soho, and embarks on a long night of farewells. He says his goodbyes, dances, sings, and says yes to everything and everyone. Then, with all his affairs taken care of, Michael promptly… survives.

Michael got lucky. He’s been given the gift of life; but what kind of life can he now live?

Photos by Pamela Raith Photography

Cruise is on from Saturday 13th August to Sunday 4th September at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7EZ. Tickets from the box office at:

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