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Australian Theatre Company stages L.A. premiere of ‘Holding the Man’

(l to r) Cameron Daddo, Adam J. Yeend, Nate Jones, Luke O’Sullivan and Roxanne Wilson.
(l to r) Cameron Daddo, Adam J. Yeend, Nate Jones, Luke O’Sullivan and Roxanne Wilson.
Suzanne Strong

Writer, actor and activist Timothy Conigrave’s best-selling memoir (winner of the United Nations Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction and listed as one of the “100 Favorite Australian Books” by the Australian Society of Authors) is one of Australia's great love stories. The stage version by Tommy Murphy captures all its special magic. Producers Nick Hardcastle and Nate Jones launch their newly formed Australian Theatre Company with the Los Angeles premiere of “Holding the Man,” featuring an all-Australian cast and directed by veteran Hollywood acting coach Larry Moss. Opening night is May 10 at the Matrix Theatre.

The course of teenage love rarely runs smooth, but it is a white-water adventure if you are a gay boy in an all-boys school in 1970s Melbourne with a crush on the captain of the football team. Despite the odds, Tim and John fall in love and for fifteen years their relationship survives everything life throws at it — the separations, the discriminations, the temptations, the jealousies and the losses — until the only problem love can't solve threatens to part them. The play’s title refers to a transgression that incurs a penalty in Australian rules football.

“Tim’s story is funny, harrowing, honest and universal,” says Moss. “Like some of us, he discovers too late that he is loved. By the time he finds out he had it, he can no longer get it back.”

Highly theatrical in style, Holding the Man” runs the gamut from absurdism to magical realism (including unique puppets designed by AlexJürgenFerguson) to naturalism to farce to deep drama. It is a celebration that speaks across generations, sexual preference and culture.

“There's a great deal of character work involved in a play like this where the actors must play a variety of parts,” Moss continues. “Acting is about transformation and Holding the Man” is full of that. I’ve taught Down Under for the past four years and fell in love with the passion and commitment the Australian acting community has for the theater. There is a depth of talent that the world is only just beginning to recognize.”

The all-Australian cast of Holding the Man” includes Nate Jones as Timothy Conigrave and Adam J. Yeend as John Caleo. Taking on multiple roles are Cameron Daddo, Luke O’Sullivan. Adrienne Smith and Roxane Wilson.

Holding the Man” performances are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. General admission is $34.99. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046 (west of Stanley Ave., between Fairfax and La Brea). For reservations and information, call 323-960-7735 or go to www.holdingtheman.us.