20:21 | 20th March 2019

Reviews: Live Shows

Mon 25 Sep, 2017
By Robert Ingham

there are moments which are so close to the knuckle you can almost see bone

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Holding The Man - theatre review

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‘Holding The Man’ is on at Above the Stag theatre in Vauxhall and, by any means, grab yourself a ticket as ‘sold out’ regularly appears on their website.

The play is adapted by Tommy Murphy from the book of the same title, written by Tim Conigrave. It tells the true-life story of a love that lasts a lifetime (or, more precisely, 15 years) from when Tim meets John at school to their diagnosis of HIV and their eventual death from AIDS.

The set, by David Shields, is impressively sparse and designed to move around with ease, swiftly becoming different homes, schools, clubs, hospitals, theatres, to name but a few – all with neon frames dotted around, as if waiting to be filled by pictures of the couple.

It is a simple, yet effective use of the space, allowing the audience to focus more on the actors and the content.

The script is awash with great lines – some exceptionally funny, some incredibly poignant, and there are moments which are so close to the knuckle you can almost see bone. It is a gorgeous, polished and well written script that has deserved being repeatedly produced around the globe, as well as being turned into a highly successful film in 2015. There are some inspired moments, like the sleeping bag scene and when the entire cast become a car – you’ll have to see it to understand just how clever it is.

As for the cast – it is evident that this play is more a passion project for them – the seven strong give their all in whatever role they have. Whilst Jamie Barnard and Ben Boskovic play Tim and John respectively throughout, the others play a huge variety of roles, so many in fact that it sometimes takes a while to realise there are just five other members. Kudos to their versatility.

Jamie and Ben obviously have a great connection, although it sometimes feels the physical connection could be more powerful. However, you really do believe they are in love and are made for life, and they do look super cute together from the moment they meet.

On the whole, this is a strong show, only let down occasionally in its pacing which veers from hearty to snail’s, almost irritatingly. Having said that, you will still find yourself completely absorbed in the story of these two lovers, rooting for them and wishing they had been dealt a different deck.

‘Holding The Man’ runs until 21st October. Take tissues.


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