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.
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’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