There are two types of standing ovation: The ones where there is a slow trickle of people getting to their feet and the rarer ones where the entire audience leaps up en masse. Jack Holden's Cruise at the Apollo Theatre was in the latter category.
Written and performed by Holden, this hour and 40-minute explosive, energetic delight of a play is primarily set among the gay community in 1980s Soho. It's about having one last night when you think you won't be around for tomorrow. But to set up that night, the play looks back at the four preceding years.
Aided by musician and DJ John Patrick Elliott, Holden takes the audience on a journey evoking the sounds, atmosphere and characters of this colourful but less than salubrious part of central London.
And what characters, some only in the story for a few lines, others who weave in and out throughout, but each is richly painted. Holden doesn't put on costumes or use props; rather, he brings each vividly to life in the way he describes them and with subtle and not-so-subtle mannerisms.
He switches effortlessly but with almost dizzying speed between each, and as a result, the play feels like it has a huge cast. The tonal shifts are also effortless. Wit, humour, fun and uplifting moments mix with the grimier, grimmer and heartbreaking, all of which are set against a backdrop of music that matches and enhances each moment.
For those familiar with Soho, there will be a few recognisable landmarks that are name-checked; for those not, there are the music and popular culture references (there's a clue in the title).
Cruise is a snapshot of life among the gay community in the capital, the friendships, community, fun and frolics that is suddenly flung under the shadow of a deadly virus. But it is also a story about stories; Holden is both telling the story and responding to it as it's told often through different characters and timelines.
And it is brilliant, a bitter-sweet celebration in some senses, superbly written and performed; catch it if you can during this short run. You won't regret it. I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, just in case you were in any doubt.
Cruise, Apollo Theatre
Written & performed by Jack Holden
Directed by Bronagh Lagan
Running time: One hour and 40 minutes without an interval
Booking until 4 September; for more information and tickets, check out the official website.
Monster, Park Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Freud's Last Session, King's Head Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Closer, Lyric Hammersmith⭐️⭐️⭐️ and a half