The theatrical adaptation of Timothy Conigrave’s novel Holding The Man broke box office records for the Griffin Theatre Company on the weekend after opening to rave reviews.

The play became Griffin’s biggest selling production in the company’s 28-year history.

Due to demand the show’s run was extended until Christmas and there are rumours it will be revived in Sydney in 2007.

The first night audience last Thursday included incoming artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, actress Cate Blanchett and husband Andrew Upton, high court judge Michael Kirby, and Conigrave’s parents, sister and brother.

Outgoing artistic director of Griffin, David Berthold, who is also director of Holding The Man, said the response to the play was unprecedented.

We always had high hopes for it because of the reputation of the book, but we certainly weren’t expecting this, Berthold told Sydney Star Observer.

We expect to sell every last ticket right through until Christmas in the next few days. We’ve already extended it. It’s been pretty astonishing.

Berthold said opening night had been terrifying due to the presence of Conigrave’s parents, who feature heavily as characters in the play.

That was a great privilege to have them there and it was, I think, a really cathartic experience for them, he said.

They were overwhelmed and I think thrilled to see Tim’s work have another life.

While this was Berthold’s final season with Griffin after three years as artistic director, he looked certain to be involved with his production of Holding The Man for some time.

This week he received unsolicited interest from theatre companies and festivals in Washington, LA and Berlin. He said he also hoped to tour the play to Melbourne soon because half the story is set there.

I think the next few weeks will be spent trying to sort out the future life of the work, he said.

It’s clear to us the piece needs to exist beyond its closing date here in Sydney.

The success of the play held particular significance for Griffin as Conigrave was involved with the theatre company in the 1980s.

Holding The Man, which was adapted for the stage by Griffin’s resident playwright Tommy Murphy, is the story of Conigrave’s 15-year relationship with his childhood sweetheart, John Calleo. It spans their school days in Melbourne, the disapproval of their families, infidelity, Conigrave’s career as an actor in Sydney and their battle with AIDS.

Review of Holding The Man.

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