Theatre Review: Cruise – Soho Hot Right Now, Or 40-Year-Old Version

December 10, 2022




Cruise / Directed by Josh Lindberg / The Theatre Linden, Randburg


In Cruise, actor Daniel Geddes has a lot to do. The piece’s main thread tells the story of Michael Spencer, and his coming to terms with the arrival of Aids in Eighties London, and in his personal life in particular. But Spencer is just one character on the end of an LGBTQ+ helpline, and Geddes plays the inexperienced consultant on the other end, as well as Spencer’s partner Dave, a number of the couple’s friends and acquaintances and a handful of other miscellaneous personalities.

Against Wilhelm Disbergen’s bare-bones set – a literal description; as the stage is adorned with just the outlines of a series of rooms – Geddes paints all the colours required to bring full life to both the various locations and the different individuals taking centre stage at various points in the story. All of this is done without any costume changes, with Geddes relying on changes in accent, posture, movement and vocal delivery to clearly differentiate which of his multiple roles is the current focus.

From a pure workload perspective, it’s a hugely impressive achievement, but Geddes does much more than simply work through the gears, adding nuance, humour and panache to his unpacking of the script. It’s a busy play, with playwright Jack Holden using rapid-fire monologues to layer detail and convincingly build the context in which all the action takes place. This milieu is one that will be affectingly familiar to the generation of gay men who lived through that time, when Aids was known as ‘the gay cancer’ and the community was ripped apart my illness and, often death.

It was also a time when a level of decadence that seems ridiculously risky was deemed, if not desirable, then at least some sort of acceptable norm, and Geddes appears to have a lot of fun – and expends a load of energy – expounding on and acting out some of the more risqué behaviours Spencer and his circle might realistically have indulged in.

Cruise is the first in a planned trilogy of HIV@40 plays marking the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the virus in South Africa (the others are called Stimela and Private Parts) and, while the dynamism of the script and the acting here do much to balance out the melancholy of the theme, it’s a topic – particularly as we all find ourselves emerging from another tragic pandemic – that is painful to confront, but good to process, especially through a lens that provides as much entertainment as it does insight.