Picture by Janie Barrett - Sydney Morning Herald
I don't want to spoiler it too much for people who haven't read the book (but given that it is mentioned on the book jacket and in everything written about the book and the play, it's not that much of a spoiler I guess) but the story follows the relationship of John and Tim. After meeting and falling in love at High School in 1976, the story follows their 16 year relationship, the good times and the bad, until John dies from AIDS in 1992, followed two years later by Tim himself. The book was written during the years after John's death and published posthumously in 1995. Since then it has had worldwide acclaim, and certainly would rank as one of the most important works of gay literature, and probably one of the best autobiographies, to come out of Australia.
It is an extremely sad and moving story, but ultimately it's a story about love. About human frailty, about mistakes, consequences, guilt, forgiveness and joy. It's also very funny at times, and the production certainly emphassises this aspect as well as the loss. As an historical look back at the early years of the AIDS crisis in Australia it's also a sobering reminder that this disease is still around.
The story, and the play, is told from Tim's point of view. Aside from John, four other actors play all the other characters (about 40 in total I think), sometimes even crossing gender boundaries. The production was spare, but very clever in it's use of sound and even puppets to tell aspects of the story. Interestingly, Tim Conigrave acted and wrote theatrical pieces, and was heavily involved in the Griffin Theatre. So there is a beautiful symmetry to the production being commissioned and staged by Griffin.
The season is a sell out, but it is coming back during the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. I'd certianly recommend it to anyone able to get a ticket, and I also really recommend the book. Have tissues handy.
The Griffin theatre is a perfect venue for a play like this. Tiny and intimate, where you can almost reach out and touch the actors. Where you can see the tears and the smiles close up. Wow. The cast, especially the two young leads, do an amazing job. The two boys are both fantastic, handsome, charismatic and with a genuine chemistry. No actory fakiness in evidence here. When Guy Edmonds as Tim cries it's real tears we see.
It was real tears in the audience as well.
[For more info here are some Wikipedia entries on Tim Conigrave and the book Holding The Man, some production information about the Griffin production, and a fantastic review of the production by The Sydney Morning Herald.]
[Updated: Morgan's has posted his review of the production on his blog also.]