Holding the Man is the best-selling memoir by the Australian writer, actor, and activist Timothy Conigrave. It was adapted for the stage by Tommy Murphy in 2006. The original production has become one of the most successful Australian stage productions in recent years, playing in most Australian capital cities and in London's West End.
There have been many plays about life and love in the time of AIDS, some of them Australian, but this play is, however, in a real way, unique. Adapted from Tim Conigrave's award-winning and much-loved memoir of the same name, Holding the Man tells the unusual and remarkable love story of Tim and John Caleo, who despite parental opposition, fell in love at Melbourne's Xavier College as 16-year-olds and remained together, in and out of love, until John died of AIDS. When they meet, Tim is an aspiring young actor and John is a promising footballer. For those who do not follow AFL it should be noted that the title is a football term. Faithful to the book, the play covers some twenty years, and undertakes this demanding task gracefully. A love affair that spans such a long time is notoriously hard to dramatize yet Murphy does this with skill (he has an easy command of both the theatrical and of the dramatic), with wit, and with sensitivity. The personal and the political deftly intersect here, as the story is, in many ways, also a history of the gay pride movement in Australia . The play is by turns hilariously funny, tender and moving. It cleverly avoids the traps of sentimentality and self-pity as it journeys toward its inevitable and tragic conclusion.