La Boite Theatre has been generous enough to bring the theatrical adaption of the love story between Timothy and John back to Brisbane, intimately exploring the vulnerability, happiness and tenderness found in any relationship.
Jai Higgs, a recent WAPA graduate (2012), is currently in rehearsal for the upcoming production where he is balancing more than ten different roles.
“The hardest part is the costume changes, to be honest,” Jai says of his, quite frankly, superhuman feat of bringing so many different characters to life. “Occasionally I have two line breaks to change into a new character.”
Some characters are no more than a flash in the pan during the production; brief, bold and created to press stereotypes, bridge gaps or pose questions.
“Playing the Door Bitch is ridiculous, because it’s so outrageous. I like that I can be stereotypical because sometimes stereotypes are okay and sometimes they are required. But creating over ten characters with unique voices, personalities and not playing on stereotypes can be difficult to give them all depth.”
Thankfully Jai has all of the help he can get in director David Berthold, who “really encourages us to be bold and to play. I have never felt like the new kid on the block, I felt encouraged throughout the entire process.”
Being a fresh graduate from drama school brings a fresh enthusiasm for Jai. This being his first interview, he proves himself adorable and incredibly well spoken. He moved back to Brisbane for the play, auditioning for the opportunity due to a love of the production’s content, message, and the La Boite Theatre Company as a whole.
“This play is so important to anyone who has had a lover, to the entire gay community, to anyone who has ever had to accept something hard without it being sugar-coated. I love that it is such a touching voice for the community.”
Currently rehearsing the end of Act II before previews in early February, and ultimately opening night on February 16, Jai feels confident that the cast will deliver a polished, touching and venerable tribute to the late Timothy Conigrave and his lover John.
As the interview with Jai concludes, his excitement never wanes: for the production, the interview, the script or the process of rehearsing the contemporary Australian classic.
“My family never get to see me perform, I have been in Western Australia for so long. I feel like this is my unveiling of sorts, and I am so happy that it’s for this production. I can promise anyone that comes to see the play that they will be moved. It’s impossible not to be, it’s a piece of theatre that will stick with you for the rest of your life.”
As Jai hangs up the phone, it’s incredibly clear just how poignant Timothy’s work is, and how all of his messages still resonate with audiences today. Perhaps after seeing this production, you will appreciate every opportunity to hold your man, or woman, and never let go while you still have the chance. Which is probably the greatest message Timothy’s memoir can deliver — that of love and gratitude while the great world gives you permission.
‘Holding the Man’ opens February 16 for a limited season at La Boite.
PHOTO: DYLAN EVANS