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.