Holding the Man showcases the Australian Theatre Company’s talents at the Matrix

By Armando Huipe
Staff Writer

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The newly formed Australian Theatre Company (ATC) opens Holding the Man at the Matrix Theatre in West Hollywood. The company’s co-founders, Nate Jones and Nick Hardcastle, say, “[their] goal is to harness the huge breadth of Australian creative talent here in L.A. The company will focus on sharing Australian stories and culture and developing new works by Australian artists.” This echoes the mission statements of other culturally specific theaters across town, even though Australian is new to the mix. The program includes a glossary of Aussie terms that are not common in the American lexicon. Still, there are cultural similarities. Tim (Nate Jones), the play’s main character and narrator, explains how American media is heavily imported into Australia.

Holding the Man was first a memoir written by Timothy Conigrave, the main character’s namesake, was published in 1995, and later adapted into a play by Australian playwright Tommy Murphy in 2005. Based on Conigrave’s life with his partner John Caleo, the play traces a 15-year love story between two people whose lives were tragically cut short by HIV/AIDS. The play intimates the mourning of a lost generation that suffered from the illness.

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Supported by John Iacovelli minimalistic set, the direction showcases the company’s acting dexterity with Cameron Daddo, Luke O’Sullivan, Adrienne Smith, and Roxane Wilson playing eight to ten roles apiece. We are introduced to the play during the 1969 moon landing denoted by a miniature puppet of an American astronaut. As Tim and John (Adam J. Yeend) come of age in the 1980s, we find that the couple has contracted HIV. We then meet a sickly, life-size male puppet, which is suggestive of the dehumanization of HIV/AIDS patients during the 1980’s pandemic.

The highlights of Man are its tender moments between the two lovers and their families. Embarking on this ambitious timeline leads to the sensation of losing some in-between moments that could have lent the piece more nuance and texture, landing the play somewhere between the biographical and the theatrical.  Ample laughs and good times in the first act balance the substantially emotional second act, where the play’s most poignant moments on love and loss are uncovered.

There is a cultural echo happening with the subject of HIV/AIDS, which puts ATC’s inaugural play in conversation with last season’s production of The Normal Heart at the Fountain Theatre. I am curious to see if there is a remount of Angels in America on the horizon.

I look forward to watching the Australian Theatre Company find their voice in the cacophonous international landscape of #LAthtr.

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Holding the Man Adapted by Tommy Murphy from the memoir by Timothy Conigrave Directed by Larry Moss Produced by Nick Hardcastle, Nate Jones, and Mike Abramson Presented by Australian Theatre Company The Matrix Theatre 7657 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90046 Performances May 10th – June 29th Thursdays – Saturdays 8pm and Sundays at 3pm Tickets can be purchased at 323-960-7735 or www.holdingtheman.us