holding the man

State theatre company of south australia
Director: Rosalba Clemente
Writer: tommy Murphy

This is the story of Timothy Conigrave and his partner John Caleo.
The play covers twenty years of life in a very quick succession of scenes with a large number of theatrical styles, characters and settings.
The speed of the scene changes was reminiscent of ‘the Wizard of Oz’ tornado sequence. This informed our thinking around this space as a remembrance ‘platform’ of Tim and John’s life together. When remembering, its often one moment or object which is strongest. We thought about the Proust poem ‘the Episode of the Madeleine’. This is true of the journey for the two boys. Quick snippets of place and time spin around in front of an audience and the boys jump in and out of the action with Tim, as the story teller, never leaving the space.
I was very inspired by Joseph Cornell’s work and this led us to think about the space as a series of memory boxes where the objects from their life were stored.
Rosalba and I also worked very closely in identifying the spatial requirements. How much space would six actors need? This defined our playing field.
photos: Matt Nettheim


Director Rosalba Clemente has chosen to stage the production with ‘utmost simplicity’, as is stated in the program. The design, by Morag Cook, is multifunctional and segregates the space practically. It is both definitive and non-obtrusive, which is a remarkable feat given that so many locations are represented throughout the production with minimal changes to the set._
Paul Rodda, the barefoot review

Morag Cook’s set is perhaps the true star of the production. Wooden frames hold shelves encasing the stage. ..... It is these constantly delicate touches in the design that add so much to the story of these two men.
The play of a memoir, Cook’s shelves build up with the trinkets and the memories, of the characters, of a lifetime. As a passage of life is concluded and a skin is shed, an object is left behind and a memory is saved. Through the path from scene to scene, the set itself builds as a memoir around Tim and John.
No plain Jane
Presentation model: Holding the Man
Joseph Cornells beautiful memory boxes