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Cruise the play:We interview the writer.

Cruise the play:We interview the writer.

June 2023

With this ground-breaking production due at HOME MCR later this year, we caught up with writer/performer Jack Holden to find out more about what we might expect from the show.

Can you tell us about Olivier-nominated Cruise which is coming to HOME Manchester for its regional premiere this Summer?

Cruise is based on a true story I head when I was a volunteer for Switchboard, the LGBT helpline. It was a story of a man called Michael who moved to Soho in the 1980s, found himself, found his tribe, fell in love, and then, in 1984, was diagnosed with HIV. At the time, with no effective medication available, it was a death sentence. So, Michael and his partner decided to sell their flat, sell the car, spend all their money on drinking and dancing their way to the end of their lives. In burgeoning, seedy, kaleidoscopic Soho of the time, there were plenty of opportunities for hedonism. The play tells Michael’s story, while bringing to life a lost Soho through music, dance and about 30 different characters - all of which are played by me!

Are you excited about bringing back Michael 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 a whole host of 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. I can’t wait to see what Manchester audiences think of the show - I think they’re going to love it.

Has the show been changed in any way since its previous runs?

The script is almost exactly the same but, as we’re moving from the old West End playhouses to the cutting edge HOME 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) onstage… but I think we’re up to the challenge!

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

It’s a tough call, but my favourite part of the show is probably my performance as the Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s most vulgar drag queen, Jackie Shit. I had been dying to explore my inner drag persona, so I really relish getting to that part of the show every night. We also perform an all-action homage to 1986’s box office smash hit, Top Gun, which is a super fun part to do.

Why should people come and see Cruise?

Cruise is about a serious and painful time in LGBT history, but it’s also a celebration of life and of the madness and excitement of Soho in the 1980s. The action of the play takes place from 1980 to 1989, and we mark the passage of time with music from the era - from disco, through synth-pop, via Chicago House, right into Acid House and Rave. It’s a thrilling, uplifting, foot-stomping evening at the theatre.

You wrote Cruise during the Covid pandemic. Do you think Covid changed 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 Covid vaccine was concocted was nothing short of a miracle. It’s deeply sad that such determination and 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.

Why should people come and see Cruise?

This is our third run of the show and every time it gets better and better! 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 20th July to the 12th August at HOME Manchester. And buy your tickets 

Published: 26-Jun-2023: (7152) Top Stories

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