Perhaps the main goal of PJ’s and my recent trip to England was to see a few shows. The last time we were there most of the shows we saw were total crap, so we really wanted this trip’s theater to be better. We ended up seeing four shows. Almost as soon as we arrived, we took the Tube to the Leicester Square tickets booth and bought tickets for our first two nights in London.

We knew we wanted to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but it wasn’t playing on Monday night (our first night in London) so we bought tickets to another show, Holding the Man. PJ had read about it beforehand and knew that it was also an Australian “gay play,” which was enough for us. We bought tickets for Priscilla for Tuesday night, so we figured the theme of our visit would be gay Australian theater!

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Holding the Man is much more than just a gay Australian play. It is an amazingly affecting theatrical experience. Unfortunately, the West End production has now closed, but the play itself is so good that I would recommend any production of this play.

Holding the Man is based on the memoir of Timothy Conigrave, an Australian writer, actor, and activist. Conigrave’s memoir follows his 15-year relationship with John Caleo. The two men met while still in high school, a Catholic boys school. Caleo was the captain of the school’s football team. The play’s early scenes detail their courtship and eventual coming out to their parents. When Conigrave goes off to college and wants to experiment with other men, the couple briefly breaks up. The second half of the play focuses on the latter years of the mens’ relationship and takes place in the AIDS era. Both men eventually dies of AIDS-related illnesses.