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  • Alex First

Holding The Man (Taylor Made Productions) at Chapel Off Chapel - 2 hours plus 20 minute interval

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


What starts out as a crush becomes physical.

Photos by Phoebe Taylor


In spite of 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.

Efron does much of the heavy lifting and readily channels the mood swings required of the lead.


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


Around them, the four other cast members (Lily Johnson, Ross Larkin, Morgan Dooley-Axup and Ryan Henry) are adept at playing multiple roles – primarily as parents, friends and lovers.


With assured direction from Cal Robinson-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 8th October.