10:55 | 20th April 2019

Reviews: Live Shows

Tue 18 May, 2010
By Robert Ingham

His beautiful homage to the man he loved and lost and its power will resonate for years to come

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Holding The Man - Truly outstanding

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Holding The Man is a truly wonderful show, a totally absorbing love story based on the same titled memoirs by Tim Conigrave. It tells the true story of his life, the man he loved and everything in between. It is a passionate, revealing and blisteringly honest tale for which is completely unapologetic.

The play opens with 15 year old Tim, played by the gorgeous Guy Edmonds, professing his “unrequited fancying” of the other boys at school, especially John Caleo who he starts a lifelong relationship with.

Holding The Man zips along at a strong, hearty pace, dipping into Tim’s life when he has left school, gone to university then drama school, their HIV diagnosis and ending in their deaths from AIDS.

It seems like a very sombre evening with that synopsis but Holding The Man is also an incredibly funny show, full of superb one liners. The first act sets up the second act perfectly with a cast racing around the set playing different characters, either changing their hair or adding a layer of costume. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments throughout where the audience almost cry with laughter.

The script, adapted by Tommy Murphy, oozes with warmth, wit and humour, taking us on a journey that we can all relate to at various points. Tommy, along with the experienced cast, brings out emotion and pathos to a very personal story and you are sucked into every aspect of the show.

This also relates to the set, which is simple but enormously effective with giant mirrors at the back, so you get to see every part of the characters. This is Tim’s “warts and all” story after all so it’s only fair the set also reflects his attitude. The scene changes are super fast, with each cast member almost choreographed to perfection. One scene shows the entire cast transform into John’s car, complete with sounds, which is just inspired.

There is not one weak moment in Holding The Man. Jane Turner, from TV’s Kath & Kim, shows how comfortable she is playing 12 parts– some hilarious, some not – and proves that even when you’re in a cult show it doesn’t mean you can’t escape from the character you are most famous for. Matt Zeremes plays John Caleo with style and panache, capturing the feelings perfectly of a man who wants to live but who has been handed a “death sentence”.

The remaining cast – Simon Burke, Anna Skellern and Oliver Farnworth – bounce into their many roles with care and diligence. I feel that if you trust a cast and their abilities you can relax into a show, whatever the subject matter. Holding The Man is no different, thanks partially to having the same two leads who were in the first ever production in 2006.

Which brings me back to Guy Edmonds. His “Tim through the ages” is entirely captivating, evoking memories from your past leaving you smiling and laughing, as well as sometimes hitting a raw nerve or two.

It is because of all these points Holding The Man is one of the best pieces of theatre you will see. Parts may be brutal, but it is thought-provoking, moving and never condescending. This was Tim’s swan song; his beautiful homage to the man he loved and lost and its power will resonate for years to come.

Holding The Man is playing at Trafalgar Studios until July 3rd.

I strongly recommend you all go see this production!.


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