It wasn’t exactly a sell out performance at Trafalgar Studios this Thursday lunchtime, but perhaps the usual groups who bulk out midweek matinees – the elderly, school trips, bankers whose wives still think they have jobs – thought the subject matter of this “growing up gay and then dying of AIDS in Australia” tale not to their liking.
In reality they would have found little to offend in this rather quaint period drama – certainly less than the sex, blood, blood, blood and blood in yesterday’s Macbeth which was packed to the rafters with squealing kids and slightly nervous looking teaching assistants. All of the characters here are frightfully pleasant and it’s really rather difficult to imagine any father having much of a problem with a couple as charming as Tim and John. But things were different in the 80s.
The performance style is that of flowing narrative montage, with most of the performers taking on multiple roles in different contexts. It’s all quite well done and the performers look intensely comfortable with the work. There are plenty of funny moments as well, with the drama school pastiche (“Camp monkeys don’t get work Tim”) particularly amusing.
Holding The Man has plenty to recommend it, but the difficulties of homosexuality and the blight of AIDS have such a weight of dramatic canon behind then (try to find a play in the 90s that wasn’t on the subject) that any work coming almost thirty years after the events really needs to speak very loudly or very eloquently. Holding The Man speaks nicely, politely, in an assured Australian accent and almost wistfully of a place and a time – and as such fails to assert its importance.