22
Feb
13

Holding the Man

 

Holding the Man

 

Well, some of us have waited a long time to see David Berthold’s acclaimed production of Holding the Man. And the Brisbane audiences are loving it, believing in the relationships, crying in the closing moments, struggling to express their emotional response afterwards, and feeling that they understand its themes and delicate issues; that they can relate to the difficulties faced by Tim (Alec Snow) and John (Jerome Meyer) and their families and friends. But there might also be those who walk away cold, completely unaffected by the emotion that is manipulated by production elements thrown generously at a script that centres around a relationship strong enough to stand on its own. Of course, essentially, what’s evident in the writing is that this is Tim’s story, the way he wrote it, and playwright, Tommy Murphy, has beautifully realised and theatricalised the memoir so that we can take an entire life’s journey with Tim and John in just over two hours. Without the additional cast of intriguing characters, and hilarious scenes involving the NIDA students and staff, parents and potential gay partners on the dance floor of a seedy night club, all plucked out of real life, it would make an entirely different play, and we wouldn’t have the context, or the vital characters who support the boys during their 15-year relationship.

 

Holding the Man

On opening night I got the impression that the response was mixed…or undecided. For the first time at The Roundhouse in a long time, the house was divided between those who rose to give a standing ovation and those who stayed seated. I must admit, I didn’t feel like the end of the show was a feel-good, leap-to-your-feet-and-applaud kinda’ moment, despite my appreciation for the work of the creative team (Brian Thomson, Micka Agosta, David Walters, Basil Hogios and Guy Webster) and cast (Snow, Meyer, Jai Higgs, Lauren Jackson, Eugene Gilfedder and Helen Howard). Sometimes you sit and continue to feel and to process without feeling like immediately jumping up and down. In fact, I felt like I experienced a more tender, more honest show on Tuesday night. More worthy in my opinion of a standing ovation, but again, I didn’t feel it was the appropriate reaction because of the sombre mood! I can’t wait to hear what you thought of the show. What interesting discussions our diverse responses inspire! I love that theatre has the power to make us feel so strongly about it!

Here are a few fair points from marketing guru Adam Brunes (he’s hopped on over to EDC so you can be sure you’ll know what they’re up to this year!),
“You should all see this. Here are a few reasons why. 1) It’s one of the most beautifully designed shows I’ve ever seen at La Boite. Ever. 2) You will laugh out loud, and probably look to the brightest light in the lighting rig to hold back tears. 3) Helen Howard and Eugene Gilfedder are at it again, this time sharing a circle jerk, and probably a costume or two. 4) It’s a true love story. 5) Four of six actors are making their professional mainstage debuts, and that alone is worth celebrating.”

 

Holding the Man

Agreed… but I can’t review La Boite’s Holding the Man, in fact, I won’t be reviewing La Boite’s main stage shows at all this year. I’d love to, but in my capacity as Learning & Participation Specialist (that’s fancy for education consultant), apparently there’s a conflict of interest. Sorry about that. What I want to do, though, is give you a brief take on each show from a drama teacher’s perspective, and offer up a sort of a Cheat Sheet each time a production opens, in case you didn’t get time to read through the teacher resources. When you do have time, DO read through the Education Notes, which are available online (look, if you get to nothing else, Benjamin Law’s article is ESSENTIAL pre-show reading), and let me know what else you’d like to see addressed in the next document, in preparation for FOOD. You can also get in touch with me via email or phone, to talk about anything you already have planned (or would like support in planning), anything you’re wondering with regard to assessment tasks, or if you have any concerns about a show’s suitability for your students. Sometimes it’s just a matter of putting it all into context and I can help you do that.

 

So on Tuesday night, La Boîte officially launched the Learning & Participation Program, and staged a preview of Tommy Murphy’s adaptation of Timothy Conigraves’ memoir, Holding the Man, just for teachers. It was a decent turn out, with many of the teachers and syllabus specialists in attendance whom I admire and respect, so, you know, no pressure…

 

Artistic Director of La Boite, David Berthold, introduced me and I spoke a little about the main stage program, the professional development opportunities for teachers, the student workshops, and the ambassador program, for which applications have closed TODAY. I do this job outside of the job all the time. When people ask me, “What should we see?” and “What’s good?” I can confidently tell them that La Boîte – our state’s second largest player – is so accessible, enjoyable, and inspires terrific conversations and lasting friendships. I know that’s not just my experience because I talk to so many for whom a trip to La Boite is a regular highlight throughout the year. I’m looking forward to hearing from teachers this year, and seeing some of you again already at the Drama Queensland State Conference next month!

 

From a drama teacher’s perspective there is so much to Holding the Man.

 

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CONTEXTUALISE: How much do you think your students know about the 1980s and the HIV/AIDS climate in Australia? Don’t assume they know anything just because you remember it (after all, it wasn’t that long ago!). Here are some Youtube clips to get you started (although I couldn’t watch the Challenger explode again). Seriously, if time and headspace allows, start with the original memoir by Timothy Conigrave AND Holding the Man and AIDS in Australia by Benjamin Law. Also, remember there are plenty of crossovers for your English students, even if they’re just analysing film clips…

 

 

 

 

 

DISCUSS: You must have time programmed for both free and facilitated discussions.

 

Holding the Man

WRITE: I love letting students write their thoughts and projections about a show after looking at the marketing collateral. Pick up the Avant Card or get on the website and take a look at the images used to promote the show to the public. I also love giving students time to write their FIRST RESPONSE after a show. It’s not a review – they can dissect and critique the show in the responding task – but it’s the immediate reactions, thoughts and feelings after experiencing somebody else’s world.

 

 

If you’d like some more ideas, or you’d like to offer some feedback and ideas for the next lot of Education Notes, email me xanthecoward@gmail.com

 

Images by Al Caeiro

 

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