Last night, I saw the play Holding The Man with my friend, Graeme. Before going, I thought that writing a review for the blog would be a great idea. Today, I think that any attempt at a standard review would be trite and would not fully convey how much it affected me. I still feel emotionally wrecked from the experience and have been drifting through my day on automatic pilot.
I should start off by saying that I have been subconsciously avoiding this play ever since I heard that it was being staged. Friends of mine had been talking about going to see it but every time it was put on, it was sold out. I guess I was always secretly relieved. When I heard it was coming back for a fourth season at the Belvoir St Theatre, I once again ignored it and assumed it would sell out quickly.
Unbeknownst to me, Graeme had gone online and booked tickets for the two of us to go. I don’t know if he sensed my reluctance because he only sent me an email and we never talked about it at all until yesterday when arranging to meet after work.
I read the book Holding The Man written by Timothy Conigrave over 10 years ago when it first came out. It was a book filled with charm, humour and ultimately a lot of sadness. It is the real life story of Tim Conigrave and John Caleo who fell in love at school and it follows their lives and their relationship until their deaths from AIDS-related illnesses. First and foremost, it is a love story. Brutally honest and quintessentially Australian. A brilliant read but I knew at the time, I could only read it once. A very emotional story.
Seeing it acted out in front of me all these years later and the story had not lost any of its impact but this time I feel a double whammy. Like many of us,I have lost friends because of HIV/AIDS including one very dear friend, Steve about 10 years ago. Steve’s death hit me very hard at the time. He had been a great friend and a mentor, someone I valued very much. With time I came to accept his passing. I still thought of him from time to time but it was always of the good times and with a smile on my face. Seeing the play last night brought back the pain of his death. Even as I’m writing this, the tears are streaming down my face.
I think this is one of the reasons that the play has been such a massive success. It strikes a chord with so many of us. There was a lot of laughter last night from the audience but also a lot of tears. As we left the theatre, someone was being consoled by a friend as he wept uncontrollably.
It is a powerful story and I do recommend it to everyone, either on stage or on the printed page. It is currently playing in Sydney and San Francisco until November. It is being staged in Melbourne in March next year and a New Zealand production is planned. The book is readily available in Australia and was finally published in the USA and Canada last month.
I would like to thank Guy Edmonds and Matt Zeremes for bringing the characters of Tim and John to life so vividly as well as the rest of the cast and the crew for such a brilliant production.
I can’t believe that I actually feel ready to read the book again and face some of the issues that I have obviously kept buried.
Sydney production –
San Francisco production –