There was a time last decade when Tommy Murphy’s stage adaptation of Timothy Conigrave’s memoir, Holding The Man, looked like it might need a permanent home to house the ongoing demand for performances. Setting box office records for Griffi

n Theatre Company in 2006, it enjoyed two more sell-out seasons at the Sydney Opera House and Belvoir St Theatre before moving to the Brisbane Powerhouse, Melbourne Theatre Company and into London’s West End.

But after a nearly five-year Australian stage hiatus, it seems a more prudent time than ever to remount the show, especially in a state like Queensland.

La Boite Theatre Company, which is currently under the artistic leadership of Holding the Man’s original director David Berthold, will bring back the show for its 2013 season with Berthold once again taking the helm.

At 20, Alec Snow was a ballsy choice to tackle the role of Conigrave in what’s been dubbed the ‘final encore’ production. A recent graduate of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) acting course, Snow was featured in Berthold’s As You Like It reboot at La Boite earlier this year with several other third-year students. Notable both for his appearance in a gold, sequined jumpsuit during the play’s climactic moments, as well as a number of other show-stealing moments, Snow was indistinguishable from his professional actor counterparts on stage.

But the challenge of playing Conigrave, a role that’s very much the glue of the stage adaptation, is not lost on the young performer.

“It’s very humbling,” Snow said.

“The role’s quite a daunting one and obviously we want to do justice to Guy [Edmonds] and Matt [Zeremes].”

Alec Snow will play Timothy Conigrave

Snow would have been about 14 when Edmonds and Zeremes (playing Conigrave and his lover, John Caleo, respectively) starred in the premiere production of Holding the Man at Griffin’s Stables Theatre, so it’s no surprise the actor hadn’t seen or read the play before snagging the starring role.

“After discussing the role with David, the first time I read the play was on a computer screen – and you know what it’s like trying to read something on a screen – but I literally couldn’t stop until I got to the end. It was just so powerful,” he said.

The memoir and its stage adaptation are an account of the 15-year relationship between Conigrave and Caleo, who met in high school in the mid-1970s. The couple died of AIDS-related illness in the early 90s.

Berthold, who commissioned Murphy to adapt the memoir, said he was thrilled to be back in the director’s chair.

“I am very excited to be returning to this production, one that means a great deal to me, and to be offering our version of this great love story to Brisbane audiences,” Berthold said.

“It is a remarkable story and this production is full of fascinating history. Alec and Jerome [Meyer] will bring wonderful new things to these iconic roles. We are all very excited.”

Berthold’s original production played in Brisbane for just one week in 2008, with every ticket sold before the production opened.

Snow will now have performed under Berthold’s direction three times in the space of the year – QUT’s production of Edward II was also directed by Berthold this year – and it’s clear the duo work well together.

“David’s very much an actor’s director,” Snow explained.

“The cast are all involved in shaping the show and you feel so much a part of the development of his work.”

Snow also has the good fortune of having studied alongside co-star Jerome Meyer (who’ll play Caleo) in the QUT actors course for three years. A familiarity with each other which will undoubtedly come in handy when attempting to portray an intimacy and bond on stage that was so central to the success of the original production.

“We’re really good mates, especially because of the course,” Snow said.

“Being such a full-on course over three years, you can’t help but have a kind of bond.”

The scheduling of the production during a tumultuous time for gay rights in Queensland – and a focus on gay rights nationally – seems both ingenious and inherently political for La Boite. But its ability to program cleverly has been one of the reasons the theatre company has managed such an incredible transformation during Berthold’s tenure in the top job.

“It’s not a particularly political play, it’s a love story, but given the timing and the power of that love story I think it can’t help but have an effect up here. I certainly hope it will,” Snow said.

Holding the Man plays a three week season at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre February 16 – March 9, 2013.

BOOKINGS: laboite.com.au or call (07) 3007 8600

READ MORE: David Berthold on Holding the Man.

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