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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Holding the Man (Taylor Made Productions) at Chapel Off Chapel - 120 minutes

Based on a memoir by the late Timothy Conigrave, playwright Tommy Murphy has given us an up close and personal look at a 15-year gay relationship.

It starts in the teen years and works its way through to the HIV/AIDS crisis of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Tim (Declan Clifford) has his eyes on the school football captain John (Jack Stratton-Smith) and makes a play for him, which pays off.

Photo by Cameron Grant

What starts out as a crush becomes physical.

Despite parental concerns, the relationship evolves.

While John is happy to maintain their exclusivity, Tim is not.

Tim pursues a career as an actor, while John becomes a chiropractor.

AIDS rears its ugly head and for too many becomes a life sentence.

Holding The Man is a fiercely honest representation of what it is like to pursue one’s natural instincts.

It works us through the highs and lows, the excitement and fear inherent in a meaningful and long-lasting homosexual relationship.

It is tender and funny and sad. In short, it is authentic and that is why it plays so well.

There’s a quantum shift in disposition after interval as a more carefree world is left behind.

That requires a movement in sensitivities by the cast, in particular the main players, who do a fine job with the material.

Much of the focus is on the character of Tim. Clifford is strong in the lead and readily channels the mood swings required.

Stratton-Smith also greatly impresses as his grounded partner, John, whose steadiness of persona comes to the fore.

Around them, the four other cast members (Melina Wylie, Scott Jackson, Morgan Dooley-Axup and Ryan Henry) are adept at playing multiple roles as parents, friends and lovers.

With assured direction from Cal Robinson-Taylor and resident director Phoebe Anne Taylor, Holding The Man moves along at pace and remains engaging throughout.

First published as a theatrical piece in November 2006, among other accolades it won the Australian Writers’ Guild Award for Best Play. It is not hard to see why.

Almost a generation later, it stands up well.

Holding The Man is playing at Chapel Off Chapel until 1st April, 2023.


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