Holding the Man – Return Season

The much anticipated return season of Holding the Man, adapted from Tim Conigrave’s memoirs of the same name, opened at LaBoite Theatre over the weekend to a standing ovation.

Jai Higgs and Alec Snow in Holding the Man. Image by Al Caeiro
Jai Higgs and Alec Snow in Holding the Man. Image by Al Caeiro

Tommy Murphy’s adaptation stages a series of linear vignettes from Tim’s and his lover John’s life; from two youths meeting at high school in the 70’s, to coming out, going to college, and the heartbreaking conclusion of contracting HIV.

With the original production sold out before opening, and the original director David Berthold again at the helm, the piece offers a fresh life with an all-new cast. QUT graduates and La Boite debutantes Alec Snow and Jerome Meyer rise to the challenge in the leading roles of Tim and John, and with a few more runs on the board, should find a deeper connection and trust that the fifteen-year relationship demands.

The first act was deftly written with a slew of comical moments in which the supporting ensemble Eugene Gilfedder, Helen Howard, Jai Higgs, and Lauren Jackson have learnt the fine art of quick-change by transforming into approximately forty various characters to round out the story.

Helen Howard - Image by Al Caeiro
Helen Howard – Image by Al Caeiro

Helen Howard’s 70’s mum role was a delight, as was Eugene Gilfedder’s hippy gay student rep and Laura Jackson’s NIDA teacher character. It is also lovely to see a mix of seasoned and emerging actors together, like Elders passing on the story-teller’s role in our tribe of Brisbane actors; something that La Boite should be commended for their on-going commitment to foster our theatrical culture.

I am not sure exactly how many plays do explore the topic of HIV, but this award winning story certainly feels like a poster play, much like what Jonathan Larson’s RENT did for the music theatre world. With the current political climate surrounding gay marriage, it is timely that the production be revisited. The many themes running through the play such as love, temptation, identity, prejudice, loss, grief, and HIV, are still relevant today with some of the scenes being just as shocking (and funny) for a contemporary audience; with more than a few moments of “Oh my, did they really just do that on stage?!”

The clever set design by Brian Thomson and David Walters used a mixture of mirrors lit with dressing room light bulbs that adapted to each well-choreographed scene change like a jenga puzzle. Composer and sound designer Basil Hogios aptly complemented the story where needed, and although the use of puppetry (Micka Agosta) was an interesting theatrical devise, the play would have stood up just as well without it.

Holding the Man plays until March 16 at the Roundhouse Theatre in Kelvin Grove.

More Information: www.laboite.com.au

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

One thought on “Holding the Man – Return Season

  • “I am not sure how many plays do explore the topic of HIV” – mmm. Let’s try Angels in America (one of the great plays of the 20th century), The Normal Heart (long original Broadway and West End runs, including a great run with Martin Sheen in the central role, a return Broadway run in 2011, and with Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo and Alec Baldwin about to star in an HBO screen adaptation), As Is, several Terrence McNally works including Love! Valor! Compassion!, etc etc. And they’re just the good ones. A bit of basic theatre knowledge (or at least research) never goes astray in a theatre reviewer.


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