Tag Archives: Nik Corrall

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

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Review of Big Foot – 3.5 Stars

Foot

Big Foot

Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Reviewed – 5th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

 

“Big Foot is a true passion project, breathing new life into theatre…”

 

Big Foot, and tiny little heart strings, danced its way through elation to grave sadness, whilst maintaining poise, humour and a genuine rapport with the audience. Joseph Barnes Phillips delivers a vibrant, vital and deftly silly performance. Journeying through the fluctuating thoughts and feelings of youth, exploring the importance and difficulty of maintaining your heritage in a relentlessly upgrading world, Big Foot was never heavy-handed, always handling its subject matters with care. Intensified by the fantastic work of the creative team – particular commendation must go to Andy Grange, whose lighting design is second to none – it is clear that Big Foot is a true passion project, breathing new life into theatre and its audiences.

Foot

Big Foot is teeming with different dialects, but the mass of tongues never became tangled within Joseph’s single body. The audience was invited to have curry on the way into the auditorium, and a later reference to his mum’s jollof, exchanged for a packet of Walkers crisps, humorously juxtaposed the specificity of origin with globalisation. Thanks to the slick direction of Dominic Garfield, and the authenticity of Joseph Barnes Phillips’ script, the voices of Joseph’s mother, girlfriend and the various fleeting supporting characters blended together in harmony, to create a true storytelling experience. Often beautiful spoken word, street slang, hip-hop, prayer and grime music formed a polyphonic symphony.

Foot

Although Big Foot deals with emotionally raw material, its most refreshing virtue was that it did not take itself too seriously. Occasionally, this meant it seemed a little too on the spot. One instance in particular, when Joseph disappeared behind a screen which he manoeuvred, only to reappear and stand on a letter block to dance freestyle, disrupted the flow of the action too much, and came across as a little self-indulgent. But for the most part, the shift from comic to tragic was spine-tingling. From answering a toy phone in his pocket, to taking his mum’s blood pressure, the changes in tone were elegant and mature.

Foot

Nik Corrall’s striking set of stuffed toys, scaffolding, a mannequin, strings of lights and a parasol was a treat to behold. Transporting the audience from a hospital, to a park at dark, to a nightclub, Max Pappenheim’s sound design bounced around the space in a constantly dynamic way to highly original effect. Andy Grange’s lights were the perfect combination of subtle and daring, marking changes of character and supporting the energy of the booming grime. The set, lights and sound amplified the quality of the production up to a creatively formidable piece of theatre.

Joseph established a rapport with the audience from the get-go, so the piece’s ending, involving direct audience participation, which built to a moving final note, was not at all gratuitous. Beginning and ending dressed as his mother, Big Foot encapsulated the turmoil of young grief in a joyful celebration of life. Vivacious, cool; and verging on brilliant.

 

Reviewed by Eloïse Poulton

Photography by Camilla Greenwell

 

 

BIG FOOT

is at Stratford Circus Arts Centre until 7th October

 

BLT-black

 

Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com