Tag Archives: Lambert Jackson

Cruise

Cruise

★★★★★

Duchess Theatre

Cruise

Cruise

Duchess Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd May 2021

★★★★★

 

“Holden epitomises the hope that is so necessary at the moment, without diminishing the tragedy”

 

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative” as the classic song goes; “Don’t mess with Mister In Between”. Well, there’s no messing with Mister In Between in Jack Holden’s solo show, “Cruise”. It embraces hope and optimism with a hug that would have the Covid police reaching for their truncheons. But that’s the point. This show defies the constraints of this past year and celebrates the thrilling side effects of upheaval.

During the early months of lockdown, Holden used the opportunity to write down his reminiscences of his time as a switchboard operator at the LGBTQ+ listening service. Whether it was his initial intention, the result is a powerful, fast-paced, riveting, mesmerising monologue that is kicking the West End back into life. Hot on the heels of Russell T Davies’ “It’s A Sin” TV series, the timing is flawless, but it surpasses comparison. Holden’s research mixes humour and reverence, fact and imagination to give us the exact flavour of the lost Soho of the 1980s.

Jack is a young, twenty-two-year-old volunteer in the present-day call centre. And not particularly good at his job. He has the knack of saying the wrong things, but then again, he receives a lot of crank calls. One day, left on his own in the office, he picks up the phone and meets Michael; a ‘gay veteran’. Michael was Jack’s age in the eighties when he received the then death sentence of being diagnosed as HIV-positive. We are whisked back to that time as Holden adopts not just the character of Michael, but the many, many vibrant and vivid individuals that shared his journey. We meet drag queens, karaoke stars, life-saving and life-affirming barmaids; the delightfully camp Polari Gordon, Slutty Dave among a host of others. We care for each and every one of them, sharing their highs and lows as Holden creates them out of thin air. His performance is as fearless as his writing. Moments of loss are juxtaposed with flights of fantasy and humour; grief and tragedy rub shoulders with laughter and resolve.

But what makes this truly special is the combination of each and every component of the show coming together with breath-taking coordination. The orchestration of sound, light, movement, prose, verse, music and expression is symphonic in its virtuosity. Nik Corrall’s scaffolding set, Jai Morjaria’s stunning lighting and John Elliott and Max Pappenheim’s soundscape come together with a choreographer’s precision as Holden struts his hour upon the stage, stepping in and out of the various characters. It is far from a one man show – John Elliott’s score is a crucial presence throughout; pulsing with its hypnotic rhythms, electronic whispers and crashing waves that brings the eighties into sharp focus.

The closing lines are reminiscent of F Scott Fitzgerald’s “… so we beat on, boats against the current…” The echoes go beyond mere pastiche as the sentiments resonate with a timeless vitality. Holden epitomises the hope that is so necessary at the moment, without diminishing the tragedy. We all recognise the complex issues of survivor’s guilt, but Holden, through the character of ‘gay veteran’ Michael, coaxes it into submission and shapes it into a beautiful celebration. We are still here. Theatre is still here. And plays like “Cruise” will undoubtedly enforce that fact.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by STUFISH

 


Cruise

Duchess Theatre until 13th June

 

Reviewed this year by Jonathan:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021
Disenchanted | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021

 

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First Date

First Date

★★★

Online

First Date

First Date

Online stream from Crazy Coqs

Reviewed – 22nd October 2020

★★★

 

“the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world”

 

The year is 2020, a pandemic has turned singletons everywhere horny (sound familiar?), and the musical ’First Date’ is here to find out if we can still believe in love!

In the Crazy Coqs bar we meet Aaron (Simon Lipkin) and Casey (Samantha Barks) on a blind date and setting eyes on each other for the first time. Queue a series of fantastically funny songs alighting on all the truisms of first dates from the friend you have lined up to fake an accident to the awkward pauses and who pays the cheque at the end of it all! The pair navigate small talk and their differences, to see whether this could be something. Our two daters are surrounded by a fantastic chorus who pop-up Grecian-esque as bartenders, exes, bad boys and even Google embodied!

The songs, written by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, are consistently brilliant. There are cabaret numbers, comedy numbers, ballads, duets and a lovely five-person opening. Accompanied by a live piano, the songs are well-written, well-sung and all great fun! The script (Austin Winsberg) between songs, however, is not up to the standard of the song writing at all. Whilst there’s some promise in there, it is overly long and slow, and needs some serious tightening up to meet the quality which is so evident in the lyric writing.

The cast are really strong, directed by Dean Johnson. They all boast fantastic voices, brought together with musical direction from John Winstone. Barks and Lipkin sing wonderfully, working hard on a slow script, although lacking in chemistry between them. Some favourite characters in the panopoly that the chorus play include Nick McLean’s Reggie and Danielle Steers’ dead grandma! The shining star of the whole show is Oscar Conlon-Morrey who is irresistibly funny in every role he plays: a feast to watch, even when he is just making comments during the internal (a lovely touch). I could’ve watch him all day.

Unfortunately the quality of the music and performers is let down by the audio (Matt Ide) and videography (Sam Diaz) quality, both of which are wildly inconsistent, so much so that they are disruptive to the piece*. The green screen backdrops are really fun and work really well, but in the space itself the lighting is bizarre and doesn’t respond to lighting changes mentioned in the script, silence buzzes, and it would be impossible to watch this through without regularly adjusting the volume up and down on your television or laptop. Given that it is presented like a film, it needs to have the basic production values of one. It is such a shame, given the quality of the actors and the material.

Production quality aside, the memorable songs and the impressive performances carry this funny and relatable take on the dating world.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography courtesy Lambert Jackson

 

* This show was reviewed on an advance link so sound and video quality may be improved on the released production

 


First Date

Online stream from Crazy Coqs

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Amelia:
Germ Free Adolescent | ★★★★ | The Bunker | October 2019
Before I Was A Bear | ★★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
I Will Still Be Whole (When You Rip Me In Half) | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
My White Best Friend And Even More Letters Best Left Unsaid | ★★★★ | The Bunker | November 2019
Potted Panto | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | December 2019
The Girl With Glitter in Her Eye | ★★½ | The Bunker | January 2020
Essence | ★★½ | The Vaults | February 2020
Flights | ★★★½ | Omnibus Theatre | February 2020
Maliphantworks3 | ★★★★★ | The Coronet Theatre | February 2020
Globaleyes | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020

 

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