Everyone’s been waiting to get back theatre for so long and as we entered the Duchess Theatre to see Cruise the excitement of people around us was palpable. And Cruise kicked the West End opening off with a stunning high-energy emotional performance, a perfect way to welcome everyone back to the theatre and is exactly what people have waited for.
The story focuses on Michael who calls the LGBT switchboard one day and recalls his life through the 1980’s from when he first moved to London, focusing on his loves and losses in that time. The show is a one-man show performed by the charismatic and wildly expressive Jack Holden. He had the audience enthralled from the start and it was incredible how many distinct characters he could create in the 90 minutes. But it was his portrayal as Michael which was most striking, creating a complex, real character the audience really cares for. It’s such an intimate story (suited to the Duchess theatre) that in Jack’s hands was brought vividly to life. It was an electric performance.
The script, written by Jack, manages to walk the delicate balance of being witty and emotional without being overly-sentimental or lachrymose. This is a celebration of life and the exceptional direction from Bronagh Lagan fully understands this. She walks the audience around the then gritty streets of Soho, giving us a glimpse of many people’s lives all encapsulated in the natural poetry that flows from the script. She seamlessly moves the audience from moments of tenderness and sadness to pure exhilaration.
In many ways the show was a back-to-basics performance where the story telling and acting were front and centre without the need for the huge spectacle that we expect at many shows now (Frozen will be opening just up the road). This show didn’t need it. There was a very simple set, centred on a wooden structure providing a simple backdrop for each location along with what should be award winning lighting and sound design that beautifully framed the emotion and poetry of the show.
Cruise is a powerful story simply told. There’s a reason the audience leapt to their feet at the end. An outstanding production to reopen the west end with which deserves a sell-out run. As a West End debut, they smashed it. This proves what creatives can do when given the opportunity and if you’re looking for something good to have come from the pandemic it’s this show getting a well-deserved place on a west end stage.
Rating: 5 Stars
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