Make a big difference to The Big Idea.

Help us tell the most creative stories.

Become a supporter

Performer Charlie McDermott

Charlie McDermott as John Caleo in Holding The Man.
Charlie McDermott says preparing for his role as John Caleo in Holding The Man has been


Charlie McDermott says preparing for his role as John Caleo in Holding The Man has been emotionally and physically intense, including dieting and running 40km a week to lose 10kg.

“The emotional demands of playing John are quite high so this is both a challenge and a reward. Because John was a real person I feel a huge responsibility to honour his memory."

"I have been dreaming about both Tim and John, and I really feel like I know them somehow.”

Presented by Silo Theatre, from August 7-29 at the Herald Theatre, Holding The Man is based on Timothy Conigrave’s autobiographical memoir, adapted for the stage by Tommy Murphy.

McDermott takes on the challenging role of Conigrave’s lover, partner and best mate John.  Their relationship is coloured by love, joy, disapproval and temptation - and irrevocably changed when the AIDS epidemic hits Australia in the early 1980s.

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

The magic hour before the sun sets on the horizon. I love running or driving or watching things at this time. The warm golden light seems to heighten my senses.

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

My good mate Steph says vivacious, courageous and downright cool!

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

When doing a play I really love the week leading up to opening night. From your first experience of the set, to the thrill of the costumes, lights and sound. It all culminates in opening night where your friends and family await you with open hearts.

How does your environment affect your work?

My environment plays a big part in my work. I think it’s important to rehearse in natural light with lots of oxygen. I also run the basement theatre and tend to work from home where there is natural light and lots of greenery.

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?

I used to be a big picture person. Big ideas and dreams. However as I have grown older I have realised that it is the finer details that make up the big picture. So my big ideas and dreams become hundreds of smaller lists.

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?


Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

‘The Little Dog Laughed’ last year was incredibly satisfying. I jumped outside my comfort zone and it was very rewarding. It was like leaping of a cliff having no idea where the bottom was, and finding out you could fly. Also, ‘This is Our Youth’ holds a special place in my heart. It was the beginning of the belief that I could do this. I felt ownership of my work for the first time, and a real connection with the people involved.

Who or what has inspired you recently?

My fellow cast members in Holding The Man have inspired me. They are such amazing talented people. Michelle Blundell, Dan Musgrove, Matt Whelan, Andrew Laing , Ali Bruce and our director Shane Bosher. They humble me with their incredible spirits.

Describe Holding The Man

Holding the man is a play adapted from the best selling memoir ‘Holding the Man’, by Timothy Conigrave. It has been adapted for the stage by Tommy Murphy. It tells the story of Tim’s life and his 15 year relationship with John Caleo. The play deals with Love, Loss and life in an honest and insightful way.

Describe your role?

I play John Caleo. John was captain of the football team at school and went on to become a chiropractor.  He is described as a gentle, caring loving soul.

What interested you in this role?

The simplicity and unconditional loving nature of John appealed to me. I have never played a real person before, so it was interesting to be able to explore and pay tribute to his memory. Also John’s rhythms are very different to my own, so the challenge of really changing myself was exciting.

What have been the challenges and rewards of preparing for this role?

I have lost 10 kg in a month preparing for this role, so that was a huge challenge. I was on 1000 calorie a day diet and running about 40km a week. It was intense!

The emotional demands of playing John are quite high so this is both a challenge and a reward. Because John was a real person I feel a huge responsibility to honour his memory. I have been dreaming about both Tim and John, and I really feel like I know them somehow.

What do you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope that audiences will be opened up to reflect on their own experiences of love and life.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

The only downside to going to drama school for me was missing out on university. I wanted to study some diverse arts degree, learning about all the ‘ologies’: anthropology, sociology, and psychology. So maybe I would have ended up in one of these fields. 

What place is always with you, wherever you go?

Titahi Bay in Wellington. I grew up here.

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

I sometimes jockey discs for the public, so I’m constantly digging around the Internet finding new and remixed tunes. The best way I find to sift through them is to dump them on my ipod and go running. I love listening to music whilst running. I also love listening to music on a massive sound system, especially if you’re in charge of the play button.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

Something for the kittens. Alfred is rather fond of string and seems to be mastering back flips chasing his tail, so I would make a stringy, sticky, fabricy toy that aided his backflip training.

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?


What's great about today?

Today was my nieces first birthday. She is the most beautiful creature in the world. I wrote her a poem:

O is for Oarsome Olive (her name)
L is for Little O (her nickname)
I is for Incredible Hair (she has a Mohawk)
V is for Volume up on your singing (she is part islander)
E is for Excellent dance moves (as above)

What’s your big idea for 2009?

In September I am acting in and producing Killer Joe by Tracey Letts at The Basement. I have wanted to put this piece on for about 4 years, and am very lucky to have the opportunity to do so. It’s a play set in a trailer park about a lovely Texan family who decide to murder their mother for her life insurance policy. We have a kick ass cast and production team. Check out for further info.

Silo Theatre presents Holding The Man

Silo Theatre have programmed this work not only because of its status as a modern classic but to create a new conversation with their audience. At a time when HIV transmission is at an all-time high in NZ, staging this work could trigger and enable social change, particularly amongst an audience who believe they are immune to the outcomes of this most pernicious of diseases.

Silo Theatre Artistic Director Shane Bosher reunites with two of the performers from The Little Dog Laughed, Charlie McDermott and Alison Bruce.  McDermott takes on the challenging role of Conigrave’s lover, partner and best mate John and is joined by hot new thing Dan Musgrove (The Ensemble Project 2009) as Tim.  Matt Whelan (Go Girls, Show of Hands), Andrew Laing (Berlin; Twelfth Night) and Michelle Blundell (The Ensemble Project 2007; The Crucible; The Real Thing) join Alison Bruce to play a hilarious kaleidoscope of human experience: playing 52 different characters between them, from snooty gay man to Aussie battler mum to hormonal teenage boy.

Further information
August 7 – 29
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE®
Tickets: $20.00 - $39.00 [service fees will apply]
Book now through THE EDGE® - or 09 357 3355

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

6 Aug 2009

The Big Idea Editor

Rawiri Paratene is bringing the curtain down on an iconic career. He shares his best advice before he steps out of the spotlight.
The impending travel bubble with Australia has plenty of reasons to get excited. But will there be a downside for NZ artists? The Lowdown looks into the biggest art news of the week.
The Auld Mug offers new opportunities for artists, as the Lowdown investigates how the creative community can ride the America's Cup wave in the latest arts news bulletin.
After being locked up by lockdown, one of the country's premier festivals is finally in full swing. We've got 7 rescheduled shows to entertain you over the next 7 days.