Aria Entertainment and Lambert Jackson have announced that the world premiere of Cruise will reopen the West End’s Duchess Theatre from 18 May to 13 June 2021 with a press night on 20 May. Written and performed by Jack Holden (War Horse, West End; Ink, Almeida Theatre), Cruise is an urgent, moving, and inspirational new play with live music and spoken word.
Based on a true story Jack was told whilst volunteering for Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ Listening Service, this new play pays tribute to a generation decimated by HIV and AIDs. Bringing to life 1980s Soho, the musical is a celebration of queer culture with an uplifting 80s electronic soundtrack performed live by John Elliott. Directed by Bronagh Lagan, the filmed version will still be available to watch from 15 April to 25 April at Stream.Theatre before it arrives at the Duchess Theatre in the West End this May.
Nica Burns of NIMAX Theatres said: “Hard as it is to find anything to celebrate in the theatre in this incredibly difficult pandemic year, being able to invite a talented new team of theatre-makers to reopen the Duchess theatre is a delight. A warm welcome to producers Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, Jamie Lambert and Eliza Jackson of Lambert Jackson and their playwright Jack Holden, all making West End debuts. For four weeks only, prior to the reopening of the popular comedy The Play That Goes Wrong, so book now!”
Marking Aria Entertainment’s first production in the West End, Katy Lipson said:
“It is an absolute honour to have the opportunity to present this play, not only on a West End stage but as we are coming out of what has been one of the most difficult and challenging years for all. It is a brave and innovative show which brings us into a world and part of history which we may not be so familiar with. A story which we should hear about; one of survival, loss, rebuilding a life, and looking forward to the future. All on top of the most uplifting and brilliant soundtrack.
“After receiving the script during lockdown, I couldn’t have imagined that we’d be presenting it as our first West End play the following year. I am so looking forward to sharing it with a live audience.”
Lambert Jackson said: “For our first West End run, we are so excited to be bringing this innovative, new, and important piece of theatre to reopen the Duchess Theatre. From the moment we read the script, we knew we had to be involved. This has been a very uncertain time for theatre in the UK, and it feels right to be producing a brilliant new play by a British writer to bring important, queer British stories to audiences at this time.”
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 and 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 – 29 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?
The full creative team includes Jack Holden (writer and performer), John Elliott (music and sound design), Bronagh Lagan (director), Nik Corrall (design), STUFISH Entertainment Architects (co-design), Jai Morjaria (lighting designer), Sarah Golding (movement) and Max Pappenheim (additional dound design).