Holding The Man – REVIEW

Holding The Man – REVIEW
Image: Holding the Man. Photo by Brett Boardman


Holding the Man follows the true story of Timothy Conigrave (Tom Conroy) and his fairytale love story with John Caleo (Danny Ball) during the ‘70s; their 15 years together until their heartbreaking AID’s related deaths. At its core, Holding the Man is a story about love through all hardships, but most of all, it is a story of two men who always seem to find comfort in each other despite all that’s thrown at them. 

The production is based on Conigrave’s memoir, published in 1995, ten days before his death. It tells the story of his life growing up gay and finding his soulmate at an all-boys Jesuit school in 1970’s Melbourne.  

The production first appeared on Belvoir’s stage 17 years ago, after premiering at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre Company in 2006. It has also been adapted into a film. 

Holding The Man Photo by Brett Boardman

This revival sees director, Eamon Flack bringing a perfectly selected cast, outrageous wig collections, and most importantly, a show that delivers intimacy, playful interaction with its audience, and a story that touches every heart.  

The joy begins as soon as you take your seat, with its six cast members teaching the audience a series of dance moves that are later performed during a nightclub scene towards the end of the first act. (Don’t worry they are easy to follow and a good distraction from the inevitable heartbreaking ending that we are soon to see).  

The production’s easy-follow structure, Tommy Murphy’s script, along with the Phoebe Pilcher’s lighting, elevate the Belvoir’s small stage area, adding complex levels of dimension to Tim and John’s love. Effortless, smooth scene changes that, in some cases, overlap, provide an insight into the fast-paced lifestyle and choices Tim makes throughout his life.   

Tom Conroy gives an incredible performance of the boyish cheeky persona of his character Tim, evolving throughout his life with ease; his co-star, Danny Ball, never falters in his performance of the soft and anxious John. Their intimacy and love radiates throughout their performance leaving not a single dry eye in the audience. 

Holding The Man. Photo by Brett Boardman

An ensemble of incredible actors including Rebecca Massey, Russell Dykstra, Shannen Alyce Quan, and Guy Simon play multiple roles to create a lifetime of characters. The most notable moments involve all six actors together.  

With so much content to cover in such a short amount of time, some of the most intense scenes are lost in the fast-paced second act. Tim and John’s devastating HIV diagnoses hastily transitions to the next scene, giving the audience little time to truly digest the events.  

Tim and John’s experiences of love and troubles reflect a time many people will remember, while providing an insight for younger generations into a devastating period in our recent history. 

This is one of those productions that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Until April 14

Belvoir St Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills


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