Wednesday, March 29, 2023



Grayson Woodham, Joel Horwood and Lewis Macdonald in Holding the Man

Holding the Man.

Based on the book by Timothy Conigrave and adapted for the stage by Tommy Murphy. Directed by Jarrad West. Assistant Director Hannah Lance. Stage Manager/Executive Producer Nikki Fitzgerald. Assistant Stage Managers Marion West/ Sophia Carlton.Lighting Designer Nathan Sciberras. Sound Designer Neville Pye. Composer Alexander Unikowski. Costume Designer Fiona Leach. Costume Realisation Tanya Taylor. Wig Stylist Shelby Holland. Puppet Designer Emma Rowland. Props Coordinator Brenton Warren. Marya Glyn-Daniel. Production Manager Alice Ferguson Promotional Photography Eva Schroeder. Production Photography Janelle McMenamin/Michael Moore. Marketing ACT HUB- Louiza Blomfield/Sebastian Winter Everyman Theatre. ACT HUB. March 22 – April 1 2023. Bookings:

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Joel Horwood and Lewis Macdonald in Holding the Man

The actors are warming up on stage as the audience enters the theatre at ACT HUB for Everyman Theatre’s production of Tommy Murphy’s play Holding the Man, adapted from the novel by Tim Conigrave. It is a reminder that what we are about to see is performed by actors. The characters, although based on real people, are not the real characters of Conigrave’s moving autobiographical account of the devastating impact of the AIDS crisis.  The fact that the two hour’s traffic on the stage is played out by an outstanding ensemble of performers makes it no less visceral, no less powerful, no less moving and just as real as if we were watching a documentary film on the ravaging devastation of the Aids epidemic of the Eighties and Nineties.

Joe Dinn and Joel Horwood in Holding the Man
Joel Horwood as Tim Conigrave and Lewis Macdonald as his lover John Caleo play their roles as the key protagonists throughout the play while the other four cast members take on the roles of the various support characters in Murphy’s gripping contemporary tragedy. Together writer Murphy and director West take audiences on an emotional rollercoaster ride in a performance that has one splitting one’s sides at the masturbating slumber party scene or Conigrave’s movement class at NIDA and Joe Dinn’s Scarecrow from a shopping centre production of The Wizard of Oz or his drag act at a Gay Disco.Dinn’s comedic skills are matched by his portrayal of   Conigrave’s father's incredible despair when he learns of his son’s condition. Amy Kowalczuk once again demonstrates her versatility  in the role of Tim’s loyal friend Juliet and her hilarious portrayal of NIDA’s movement teacher, channeling the familiar fearful drama lecturers. Grayson Woodham also gives a comical and caricatured performance as Juliet’s mother as well as Peter, Tim and John’s tennis playing gay friend. In Murphy’s adaptation Tracy Noble effectively plays multiple roles as John and Tim’s mothers, lesbian Rose, one of the boys at the slumber party and the doctor who delivers the test results. In the second half our laughter is turned to tears as we witness the cruel fate as Horwood and Macdonald capture the anguish and dread of their characters’ fatal destiny.  West’s actors create an ensemble so tightly woven and so beautifully directed that every moment of this sensitively performed production rings with a truth that recalls an age of innocence, torn apart by a disease that ravaged the gay community.

Lewis Macdonld, Joel Horwood, Tracy Nobe, Amy Kowalczuk inHolsing the Man
I remember the horrifying impact of AIDS on the undeserving. I remember the fear and the panic. But I also remember the love and the courage, the selfless devotion and the unconditional support for the sufferers. It is the true quality of human love and sacrifice that Horwood and Macdonald imbue in performances that are so real, so honest and such a tribute to Caleo and Conigrave whose book appeared only ten days before his death. From the joyful awakening of the schoolboy crush to the terrifying prospect of the disease’s ultimate inevitability, Horwood and Macdonald perform with a truth that shapes their difference and seals their love.

 In the wake of the Covid 19 Pandemic and with the recent memory of the pain and the cruel prejudice of the AIDS epidemic, Murphy and West remind us of the vulnerability of the human condition and the enduring nature of love irrespective of gender or sexuality. It is the legacy of Conigrave’s autobiographical novel, resonating with empathy in Murphy’s adaptation and sensitively directed with flair and compassion by West. West has inspired a committed and talented cast to embrace Murphy’s writing and honour Conigrave’s love tragedy. Everyman Theatre’s production of Holding the Man  is a gift to Canberra’s theatre-going community. Playwright, director, cast and creatives have collaborated in an inspiring theatrical tour de force that reminds us of the enduring nature of true love. Writer Tommy Murphy will be attending a Q and A after the final performance on April 1st. If you love the very best that theatre has to offer and embrace life with empathy, compassion and love then do not miss this outstanding production of Holding the Man.