REVIEW: CRUISE (Apollo Theatre)

Jack Holden’s Cruise was one of the first productions to premiere in the West End when theatres reopened in May 2021. Based on a true story Jack was told whilst volunteering for Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ Listening Service, Cruise pays tribute to a generation decimated by HIV and AIDs. This kaleidoscopic musical is a celebration of queer culture with an uplifting 80s electronic soundtrack performed live by John Patrick Elliott.

Produced by Aria Entertainment and Lambert Jackson, the show gave playwright and performer Jack Holden his West End debut and won widespread acclaim from critics and audiences alike and was nominated for Best New Play at the 2022 Oliviers. Now this moving and inspirational play returns over the summer for a strictly limited run at the Apollo Theatre, just blocks away from where it all took place- February 29th, 1988. Soho, London.

Cruise is the true story of what should have been Michael Spencer’s last night on Earth.

When Michael is diagnosed with HIV in 1984, he’s 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, spend everything they have and 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 left and drowning himself in 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 to friends, enemies and strangers; old haunts, dive bars, cafes, clubs and pubs; his brothers, sisters, allies and exes. He dances, sings, and says yes to everything and everyone. Then, with all his affairs taken care of, Michael promptly… survives. Michael got lucky, and he goes on to live to a ripe old age. Michael has been given the gift of life; but what kind of life can he now live?

Cruise features playwright Jack Holden (Ten Per Cent, Amazon Prime Video; War Horse, National Theatre) with original music composed and performed live by John Patrick Elliott (The Little Unsaid). Working as a team to tell the story, Jack Holden brings a tour de force of energy to the stage while performing multiple characters and has the audience eagerly eating out of the palm of his hand. His script is witty, moving and fast-paced and Jack has the audience in fits of laughter and edging them to tears with his rich and engrossing performance. From modern day 22 year old to Fingers the DJ, Jack’s characters are fully formed beings and it’s easy to get lost in the universe of the play, come to love its characters and be devastated by their true stories. John Patrick Elliott’s music underpins the entire production, bringing together a gorgeous mix of sound effects, overlay, live instruments, vocals and the electronic synth infused beats that made grimy yet fabulous 80s London, instantly recognisable and totally unforgettable!

Written during one pandemic about the true stories of another, Cruise is playing the Apollo Theatre for a strictly limited run, make sure to get your tickets early as you don’t want to miss this very special moving, funny and inspirational musical journey that catapults audiences into the world of 80s Soho.


Reviewed by Stuart James