Love Endures: Holding the Man at Belvoir St Theatre

Holding the Man, currently captivating audiences at Belvoir St Theatre presents a deeply moving exploration of love, loss, and resilience. Based on Timothy Conigrave’s heart-wrenching memoir, this adaptation transcends the personal narrative to touch on universal themes of love, identity, and the devastating impact of the AIDS crisis. This poignant production, under the thoughtful direction of Eamon Flack, offers a rich theatrical experience that engages the audience’s emotions and intellect in equal measure.

The show’s plot follows the life of Tim Conigrave, navigating through his formative years, the discovery of his sexual identity, and his enduring love affair with John Caleo, his high school sweetheart. Their journey, set against the backdrop of 1970s and 1980s Australia, is one marked by societal judgment, the fight for acceptance, and the looming shadow of a health crisis that would change the world. It’s a story that resonates with timeless relevance despite its deep roots in the past.

Eamon Flack’s direction is commendable for its sensitivity and nuance. Flack draws out the emotional depth of Conigrave’s narrative while ensuring that the production never veers into the overly sentimental. This delicate balance allows the audience to fully engage with the characters’ journey, feeling every heartbeat of joy and every echo of loss. Flack’s direction ensures that the story’s potent mix of humour, warmth, and tragedy is presented with a genuine human touch that speaks directly to the heart.

The authenticity of the era is captured by Emma White’s costume design. Each piece not only reflects the period’s fashion but also serves to underscore the characters’ evolution and the changing social landscape. In its simplicity, Stephen Curtis’s set design provides the perfect canvas for the story to unfold. His work, combined with Phoebe Pilcher’s lighting, creates an atmospheric depth that shifts seamlessly with the narrative’s tone.

A special mention must be made of Nigel Poulton, the Intimacy and Movement Director, who brings an essential element of authenticity and sensitivity to the portrayal of gay intimacy. Poulton’s work is vital in creating honest and respectful scenes, allowing the audience to witness the depth of Tim and John’s love without reservation.

The ensemble cast, comprising Russell Dykstra, Rebecca Massey, Shannen Alyce Quan, and Guy Simon, showcases remarkable versatility, moving fluidly between roles as parents, schoolmates, theatre students, and queer characters. Their collective performance adds a dynamic richness to the narrative, each character they portray adding layers to the story’s emotional landscape.

Danny Ball as John Caleo and Tom Conroy as Tim Conigrave deliver stand-out performances. Both actors bring a palpable authenticity and emotional depth to their roles, capturing the essence of their characters’ love, struggles, and aspirations. Their chemistry is undeniable, providing the heartbeat of the show.

Holding the Man is a beautifully crafted production that will leave audiences both smiling through tears and reflecting deeply on the nature of love and loss. It’s a testament to the power of theatre to tell stories that matter, stories that, despite being rooted in a specific time and place, speak to universal human experiences. Bring your tissues; this show is a profoundly moving experience that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

– The other Daniel Craig


Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig

Holding the Man runs for two hours and 20 minutes (including 20 min interval) and plays at the Belvoir St Theatre through 14 April 2024. Tickets are available through Belvoir St Theatre’s Box Office.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Kabuku Public Relations.
Image credit: Brett Boardman.