Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo met in the mid-1970s at their all-boys school in Melbourne. He was an aspiring actor; he was the star football player. He went on to study at NIDA and work as an actor, theatre maker and writer; he went on to be a chiropractor. Together since high-school, Holding The Man was Conigrave’s memoir of their relationship of fifteen-years, ending with the death of Caleo from an AIDS related illness in 1991. Conigrave passed away with the same disease a few months before his book was published in 1995.
The memoir was adapted for the stage by Tommy Murphy, and is being presented in a new production directed by Rosabla Clemente for the State Theatre Company of South Australia in their final production for 2011.
Covering twenty-two years in just over two hours, at times Murphy’s script can do little but cover the most basic surface level of the relationship. The most satisfying aspects of the script is how Murphy not only plays with a balance of comedy and drama, a comically heightened act one giving way to dramatically heavy act two; but also balances naturalism with theatricality.
Rather than shying away from existing in a live theatrical medium, Murphy’s script fully embraces the theatre. The action takes place over twenty years in countless locations and with dozens of characters, and this is all presented in the one space with a cast of six.
Joining Luke Clayson as Tim, and Nic English as John, are Catherine Fitzgerald, Nick Pelomis, Geoff Revell and Ellen Steele, taking the men on their journey through high school, university, theatres, and hospitals.