Holding The Man – Opening Tonight

Holding The Man - LA Boite Theatre
Holding The Man – LA Boite Theatre

Opening tonight at La Boite Theatre is the much anticipated return of one of Australia’s great love stories, Holding the Man. The original production under the direction of David Berthold was adapted from Timothy Conigrave’s memoirs, and played for only one week in Brisbane in 2008 and sold out before the production started.

The story documents the 15-year love affair of two high school boys meeting at an all-boys Jesuit Catholic school in Melbourne in 1969. Timothy Conigrave was a budding thespian and John Caleo was the captain of the football team. Sadly, like many others during that time, they couple contracted HIV. Holding the Man is a heart-wrenching account of a relationship that weathered disapproval, separation, temptation and ultimately, death. It’s a story and a celebration that speaks across generations, sexual preferences and cultures

As Tim was an actor, writer, and theatre maker, it made sense to David Berthold that his story should be told theatrically, so he commissioned Tommy Murphy in 2006 to adapt the play Tim Conigrave’s memoir of the same name, which was first published only months after Tim’s death in 1995. The book subsequently gained a cult following amongst the gay community and hasn’t been out of print since. The book also won the United Nations Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction in 1995, and was listed as one of the “100 Favourite Australian Books” by the Australian Society of Authors for its 40th anniversary in 2003. It is interesting to note the book title Holding the Man, is borrowed from a football term which refers to a transgression that incurs a penalty.

Holding The Man - Image by Al Caeiro
Holding The Man – Image by Al Caeiro

The piece was developed in Tim’s theatrical home at the Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney, where many of the scenes of the book were set, which made a unique and intimate connection with the theatre building. When first adapting the play in 2006, in collaboration with Tommy Murphy, Director David Berthold biggest concern was the putting people’s real lives onstage, especially in Sydney where so many knew Tim and John, and especially Tim’s other and father who came to the opening night, and who were also portrayed as characters in the play. However, the play was well received and Tim’s parents were very supportive of the project.

The stage adaptation went onto win an Australian Writers Guild Award (AWGIE) for Best Play and the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Best Play. The play has since toured Australia, with seasons at the Sydney Opera House, Company B at Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre, the Brisbane Powerhouse, and Melbourne Theatre Company including a season on London’s West End where it was nominated for the 2010 West End BroadwayWorld UK Awards for Best New Play and Best Direction of a Play. Other productions have also been mounted by by San Francisco’s New Conservatory Theater Center, and Silo Theatre in New Zealand, and the  State Theatre Company of South Australia.

The return season at La Boite brings a fresh new cast with two graduates from the QUT Actor’s program. David Berthold first directed the young actors Alec Snow and Jerome Meyer who will play the roles of Tim and John, in their final QUT Graduation Showcase, and knew that they were up to the challenge of such demanding roles for young actors, but also their three years training together brough a unique bond to the roles.

The cast also includes Eugene Gilfedder, Jai Higgs, Helen Howard, Lauren Jackson, who play a number of roles (with some actors playing up to ten characters each).

Berthold says the most surprising thing that will strike the audience is that although the later stages of the plot is tender, moving, heart breaking and tragic, the play (and book) is funny, with a whole gamut of emotions in between.

Holding the Man will run from 16 Feb – 9 Mar 2013 at the Roundhouse Theatre in Kelvin Grove.

More Information and Bookings: laboite.com.au or call 3007 8600.


Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

Bobbi-Lea is AussieTheatre.com's QLD Co-ordinator, writer, reviewer, and reporter. She is also an actor, presenter, and theatre/film producer for Drama Queen Productions in Brisbane. Bobbi-Lea holds a Degree in Music Theatre as well as a Degree in Film & TV, and is currently doing her Masters in Screen Production.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

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