Timothy Conigrave's memoir is one of Australia's great love stories, and Tommy Murphy's stage version captures all its special magic. David Berthold's definitive original production, last seen in London's West End, returns to Brisbane this February with an all new cast.
Breathtakingly honest and achingly funny, Holding the Man is a heart-wrenching account of a 15-year relationship that weathered disapproval, separation, temptation and ultimately, death. It's a story and a celebration that speaks across generations, sexual preferences and cultures.
Tim Conigrave and John Caleo met in high school in the mid-1970s. Tim was in the school production of Romeo & Juliet and had a crush on John. John was the captain of the football team and wanted to play for Essendon. By the end of high school even their school yearbook acknowledged them as the year's cutest couple.
Holding the Man smashed box office records for Griffin Theatre Company in 2006 and enjoyed four sell-out seasons in Sydney, transferring to the Sydney Opera House and Belvoir, before moving to the Brisbane Powerhouse, Melbourne Theatre Company and into London's West End. Now, due to persistent and overwhelming demand, La Boite brings the original production back to Brisbane.
Cast & Creatives
Director David Berthold Designer Brian Thomson Costumes and puppets Micka AgostaLighting Designer David Walters Composer & Sound Designer Basil Hogios
with Eugene Gilfedder, Jai Higgs, Helen Howard, Lauren Jackson, Jerome Meyer & Alec Snow
Reviews for Holding the Man
"Holding the Man is a life-affirming piece of theatre that will grab you by the heart... Not a moment of happiness, sadness or disappointment is lost... each play their roles sensationally... audiences will be privileged to see two stars in the making... Make sure you take your tissues". (The Courier-Mail) Continue Reading
"Very few stage productions have moved me this much...It will make you laugh, cry and it will give you hope." (samesame.com) Continue Reading
"A tremendous piece of theatre ... Holding the Man is the kind of thing La Boite does best; a personal story of love and loss, with a good measure of laughs along the way." (Brisbane Times) Continue Reading
"Compelling, wrenching and essential... I laughed and I wept" (Sydney Morning Herald)
"See Holding the Man if you love good story-telling and good theatre – that’s all of you, right?" (Green Room) Continue Reading
"...one of the most prime and vital pieces of Australian theatre to enter into The Roundhouse to date and is an instant classic and canon play." (Theatre People) Continue Reading
"A heartbreakingly honest piece that will stay with you long after you leave. Take a loved one." (Arts Hub) Continue Reading
"Fresh, frank and funny…a wrenchingly moving love story I defy anyone with a pulse not to relate to." (Evening Standard, London)
"At the end, something remarkable happens in the theatre: you suddenly realise that the whole audience is holding its breath." (Financial Times, London)
"Holding the Man is, quite simply, a beautiful love story…dazzling." (The London Magazine)
"Tender, deft and erotically charged...extraordinary momentum, extraordinary grace...Great stuff." (Australian Stage)
"Join an audience who gasp both in tears and in laughter." (Sydney Star Observer)
"Tim and John's excellent adventure is depicted in all its awkward, furtive and thrilling aspects… The effect is a rollercoaster for the audience which is alternately exhilarating and agonising and almost constantly compelling… Brian Thomson's set of theatrical lighting and the messy detritus of busy lives makes easy transitions from boyhood to a theatre life. Costumes by Michael Agosta cover the spectrum from scraped schoolboy knees to the glam nonsense of 80s disco-dom, with a corresponding sound design from Basil Hogios... it's only right that Holding the Man should be seen by the widest possible audience. It tells a timeless story of love in a time of catastrophe; it reminds forcefully of the enduring power of honesty and bravery and more: it is wonderful, meaningful entertainment." (Stage Noise)
"Whether gay or straight, young or old, I defy anyone to walk away from this memorable production unaffected… David Berthold's direction shows a depth of understanding of his subject and a passion for the craft of theatre that one all too rarely sees… the audience remains engaged, entertained and challenged from beginning to end." (ABC Radio)
"An act of urgent remembrance, an unflinching, devastating, moving and funny reanimation of that awful time. It is also the story of two people in love… David Berthold's direction plays fully with the theatricality of a work that's set, at least partially, in a theatre. There's a sharpness of pacing and a richly rewarding attention to emotional detail… Murphy, Berthold and the cast's tribute to Caleo and Conigrave is compelling, wrenching and essential. I laughed, and I wept. History's like that." (Sydney Morning Herald)
"Holding the Man is anything but narrow and agenda-driven: it’s full of comedy, dimension, and crackling, vibrant feeling… it may be one of the funniest plays I’ve seen this year... David Berthold’s direction and the play’s use of simple props (such as a hugely versatile white sheet and dressing room mirrors that become hospital beds) are clever and seamless… It’s a brilliant play that delights and entertains, teasing you from the distractions of life’s cruelties only to slug a full-force hit to your heart as a reminder that life is, if anything, double-edged." (Australian Stage)
"With over 40 characters in the play, members of the cast take on numerous roles, running off stage as a scruffy schoolboy to re-enter as a flamboyant, kaftan-wearing mother or whipping off costumes onstage and pulling on a wig to make them suddenly 30 years older… Using touches of physical theatre, puppetry and what must be exhausting emotion night after night, Holding the Man creates a visually spectacular play which, other than simply telling a poignant love story, reaches a perfect equilibrium of laughter and inevitable tears to do justice to such a unique partnership." (Official London Theatre)
"The truth has a power to make us laugh. Holding The Man reminds us that laughter goes on even when we are so ill that it hurts us to do so. From the touching naivety of the boys as they fall in love, through Conigrave’s time at college and even in sickness, there is fun to be had. Along the way we get a fantastic soundtrack and costumes so spot on that they deserve a stand up comedy show of their own. However, director David Berthold and designer Brian Thomson have created more than a supremely funny period piece full of guilty pleasures for those who remember the 80s. Thomson’s beautifully poetic set of lights and mirrors reflects the magic of romance and theatre. Equally, Berthold creates a highly inventive production with a tight ensemble cast using the most of basic props and techniques powerfully… Holding The Man is terrific and there is more joy than shame here." (The London Magazine)
"Holding the Man is very much a play of two halves... The same audience members who were crying with laughter during the first act, left the theatre wiping away tears of sadness two hours later. It was no surprise to see that the standing ovation at the end of the play was near enough unanimous." (Broadway World, London)
In the News
"La Boite Theatre has been generous enough to bring the theatrical adaption of the love story between Timothy and John back to Brisbane" Scene Magazine Continue reading
"As director David Berthold rehearses his second production of Holding the Man, he tells Alistair Sutton why this story of enduring love between two men matters now more than ever." QLD Pride Continue reading
"Few tales have been as much loved and embraced in Australian queer culture than the equally uplifting and harrowing story of life, love and death as told in Holding the Man – The memoir of Timothy Conigrave and his partner John Caleo." QNews Continue Reading
Holding the Man was published in 1995 by Penguin Books. It has been reprinted fourteen times and has since been published in Spain and North America. It 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.
This stage adaptation is winner of the Australian Writers Guild Award (AWGIE) for Best Play and the NSW Premier's Literary Award for Best Play. It is one of the few Australian stage productions to transfer to London's West End, and was nominated for the 2010 West End BroadwayWorld UK Awards for Best New Play and Best Direction of a Play.
You can find out more about Timothy Conigrave's memoir, Tommy Murphy's stage adaptation and David Berthold's production >>here
La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre6-8 Musk AvenueKelvin Grove Village