Tag Archives: Nik Corrall

Cruise

Cruise

★★★★★

Apollo Theatre

CRUISE  at the Apollo Theatre

★★★★★

 

Cruise

 

“John Patrick Elliott’s live score throbs beneath the anecdotes in perfect harmony”

 

Say what you want about the pandemic (and a lot has been said), but in retrospect it is vaguely possible now to glimpse some positive repercussions. And time always has a habit of painting thick coats of nostalgia over past events, so that many of us now recall fondly those empty days of 2020, freed from the guilt that naturally accompanies inactivity, but free to explore undiscovered creativity. One individual who grasped that opportunity by the horns is Jack Holden. A ripple of an idea evolved into a stream (quite literally a live stream – and one which reshaped the burgeoning artform) which in turn evolved into the first new play to open in the West End after lockdown. Its second run comes with rumours of a feature film in development.

Two little gripes to get out the way before continuing. I reviewed the show last year at the Duchess Theatre, and little – if anything – has changed; so it would be easy just to copy and paste. But if the content remains the same, the perception has altered slightly. With the added passage of time, the second-hand nature of Holden’s writing is that much more apparent. His ingenious wordplay and gifted command of the stage remains undisputed, but these are other people’s stories. It went unnoticed before, but now there is a vague sense that the integrity, of one born too late, might be questioned.

The performance does its utmost to silence any reservations, however. The Eighties weren’t Holden’s world, but they are vividly recreated in a whirlwind ninety minutes of sight, sound, song; poetry and prose. The atmosphere and soundscape are spot on, as is Holden’s vocabulary that speaks of a Soho sadly long submerged under the waves of so-called gentrification. Holden is Jack (himself), working a decade ago at ‘Switchboard’; the LGBT+ telephone helpline. Left alone on a Saturday morning in the office he receives a call from Michael. The show becomes Michael’s story – a ‘gay veteran’ who survived, but not without the battle scars and the memories of loved ones lost on the way. We meet his saviour, the barmaid Catherine (Tabby Cat), Lady Lennox who charges just two chats a day for a year’s rent in a Soho townhouse; Fat Sandy, DJ Fingers the Mancunian nutcase, Jacob and Jason – the Nymphs of Greek Street, Polari Gordon and Slutty Dave. The fleshpots and drinking dens (most of which have been killed off, while HIV targeted many of its inhabitants) are brought to sparkling life with a sense of nostalgia that is sometimes overwhelming in Holden’s masterful retelling.

It is a portrayal that is faultless and fearless. Visually unchanging, Holden slips into each character with a finely tuned precision and incredible command of expression and accents. John Patrick Elliott’s live score throbs beneath the anecdotes in perfect harmony. Just as Holden creates the illusion of a crowded stage, Elliott is a one-man orchestra; eclectic, electric, and essential. Prema Mehta’s lighting is, indeed, another member of the cast: an equally evocative voice that helps tell the story.

It is the story of a man given a death sentence who decides to ‘go out with a bang’. Who won’t just ‘face the music’ but will play it. It is the story of a survivor. One who survived first the stigma, then the disease. “We carry on” he says. “What else can we do”. Okay, Holden may be too young for his words to carry the full weight with which they are burdened, but they certainly resonate at a time when we’re recovering from another epidemic.

“Cruise” hits hard. And plays hard too. Hedonistic joy dances with tragedy. Innocence and experience pass in the night. Holden encapsulates a lost generation without mourning it. He acknowledges his nostalgic yearning, and is ultimately grateful that he was ‘born too late’. And he does so with real respect. “Cruise” is an absolute joy. A celebration. A party not to be missed.

 

Reviewed on 17th August 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 

 

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Little Women

Little Women

★★★★

Park Theatre

Little Women

Little Women

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 17th November 2021

 

★★★★

 

“The full cast of eleven are in fine voice, supported by the rich string arrangements of the music”

 

Louisa May Alcott’s novel “Little Women”, originally published in two separate volumes in the 1860s, was said to be one of the first visions of the ‘All-American Girl’. It was hailed as being ahead of its time, and as such has stood the test of time. Continuously in print, with many film and television adaptations under its belt, it finally made it into musical form at the beginning of this century, opening on Broadway in 2005. Today’s audiences might not find the scenario unduly innovative, but it is its charm and endearing representation of the multi-layered personalities that draw you into the story. And Bronagh Lagan’s staging at the Park Theatre has charm in abundance.

The ’Little Women’ are the four March sisters: Amy, Beth, Meg – and Jo steering them through the treacherous subplots of growing up. The rites of passage are brilliantly navigated here by the strong cast that give a passionate portrayal of the inevitable loss of innocence when childhood and womanhood overlap. This is also one of its only snags, though, particularly in the first half when the characters’ young ages jar slightly with the on-stage physicality. But that minor moan is swiftly swept away as we get caught in the current of song and story.

The story focuses on the sisters’ differences. Amy is the baby, yearning for sophistication that’s out of reach. Selfless Beth is timid and musical. Meg, the eldest, is the most traditional, while Jo burns with a determined passion, struggling to find her place in the world. Allan Knee’s book pushes Jo centre stage, whose fiery energy Lydia White captures marvellously, while her theatrical generosity allows the others to shine too. Mary Moore is a bundle of joy as the young Amy, Anastasia Martin is ultimately heart-breaking as the tragic Beth and Hana Ichijo deftly mixes romanticism and pragmatism of the oldest sister Meg in probably the most difficult personality to portray. Savannah Stevenson’s charisma rules the roost as the matriarchal Marmee; a compellingly watchable performance that comes into its own during her two solo numbers.

The full cast of eleven are in fine voice, supported by the rich string arrangements of the music. Whilst Jason Howland’s score never takes your breath away, the sumptuous melodies and Mindi Dickstein’s plot driving lyrics add stirring layers to the narrative. A story that is intercut with vignettes from Jo March’s mostly unpublished attempts at writing. We long for everything to work out for these far from little women, we feel the joy when it does, and our senses are tugged when it doesn’t.

The humour and the pathos are captured in equal measure. You want to laugh, and you sometimes want to cry. It doesn’t rock you to the core but on a cold evening as winter fast approaches it will certainly warm you with the glow of its captivating charm.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Little Women

Park Theatre until 19th December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
When Darkness Falls | ★★★ | August 2021
Flushed | ★★★★ | October 2021
Abigail’s Party | ★★★★ | November 2021

 

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