Thursday, February 29

Cruise – Aria Entertainment and Lambert Jackson

Oscar Wilde suggested that the theatre is the “greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being” and this sentiment is beautifully represented in Jack Holden’s latest play CRUISE. 

A lyrical celebration of queer culture, CRUISE is a musical and spoken word tribute to the veterans of the AIDS crisis. A perfectly crafted piece of queer theatre. Poetic. Artistic. Honest. It is a brutal depiction of a horrific period in the gay culture of ‘80s London. Of course, there is no message more powerful or indeed primal than that which shows the need of a human to protect their tribe and this story, told through the eyes of a 30-year-old Jack (jack Holden) in 2021, is the perfect example of survival, of history, of culture and community. 

Written and performed by Jack Holden, CRUISE is the true story of what should have been Michael Spencer’s last night on earth. Jack is a Gay Switchboard Operator, new to the job and completely naïve to the courageous journey of those that came before him. On a night in lockdown, we are transported through an artistic and hedonistic passage of time. Jack meets Michael on the 34th anniversary of his Partner’s death from AIDS when Michael makes a call into the Switchboard. Jack is completely unprepared, but he is taken on an energetic, musical trek through the ‘80s gay subcultures showing him that although self-destruction is sometimes the most natural thing in the world, we only have moments to live and that it is important therefore to see ourselves reflected in our history to live life to the fullest.

CRUISE is a colourful mosaic of all things creative: theatre, music, art, comedy, dance, and poetry. It exposes loneliness and loss, but also the power of community and membership. It is an inspiration to all of us to live every day as if it is our last.

Holden is truly a dynamic and spirited Performer, a master at work. He navigates multiple characters and accents, song and movement with ease and not once did his energy falter. As a Writer he is a Master with witty, realistic, heart-rendering dialogue that captures the imagination and breaks the heart with equal force.

The piece is directed for film by Bronagh Lagan with phenomenal style and understanding of Holden’s writing. At no point did it lose momentum, and it maintained the empathy for the characters that is often lost when live theatre is transferred to film.

The dialogue is supported by a phenomenally uplifting electronic soundtrack performed live by John Elliot as DJ, Guitarist, Pianist, and all-round musical genius. With Sound Design by Max Pappenheim, the soundtrack is a true compliment to Holden’s writing and magically transports the audience to the streets and bars of Soho.

Following the success of Channel 4’s It’s a Sin, CRUISE is a celebration of life and survival, a special story no matter what your background, and a must-see production!

The film of CRUISE is available until 25th April at Stream.Theatre. The live world premiere of the production will reopen the Duchess Theatre for 4 weeks only from 18th May – 13th June. For tickets and further info visit

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin

Reviewed: 15th April 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★