The Longest Minute is in a league of its own
By Anna Daniels
It can be tremendously validating to see others share the passion you have for a sporting code. Particularly when that code is the battlers' blue-collar game of rugby league, the setting is quintessentially Queensland, and the stage isn’t The Cauldron but the Cremorne Theatre.
When I was invited to the first reading of Robert Kronk and Nadine McDonald-Dowd's The Longest Minute, I immediately felt the warm familiarity which comes with being amongst birds-of-a-feather. There we were, listening to a talented team of creatives who 'just got’ league and its ability to get under your skin and into your blood, coursing through your veins with every set of six that puts your team closer to the posts. I felt like I was home.
...the sound of NRL on the telly transports me back to happy childhood memories, when fish and chips and the Friday Night Football signalled that everything was right with the world
Growing up in Rocky with three brothers, and a father who'd played for the local team in his twenties, I really had no choice but to be swept up in footy fever. My weekends were punctuated by afternoons lying on the lounge room floor, the sun streaming through the curtains as Ray Warren’s voice boomed from the TV. "They’re on their last… What will they do with it?"
Like the jingle from the Mr Whippy truck as it optimistically wended its way through the suburban streets, or the bellow of cows at the local Rocky Show, the sound of NRL on the telly transports me back to happy childhood memories, when fish and chips and the Friday Night Football signalled that everything was right with the world, everything was in its place.
It's this sense of nostalgia in The Longest Minute that will resonate so deeply with audiences, not only with its references to league’s bygone days and players, but because of its storyline of an underdog who dares to dream.
With their laconic Aussie sayings and cheeky irreverence, the Wright family both literally and metaphorically speak our language. Patriarch Frank, The Black Flash’s wistful reminiscing about his glory days playing in the Foley Shield and what may have lay beyond capture our own misgivings for roads not taken, or opportunities lost.
Laurie's yearnings to connect with his culture and his mother Margaret’s impassioned pleas to keep her family together, run parallel to the Cowboys quest for victory, but ultimately the main protagonist of The Longest Minute is Jess Wright.
Played with boundless energy and enthusiasm by the superb Chenoa Deemal, Jess is fixated on her goal of playing representative rugby league. And despite much mockery and seemingly insurmountable odds, she refuses to back down on her dream.
"I'm a footballer," she says. “You get back up, you play the ball and you run at ’em again.”
The Longest Minute is a joyous, life-affirming, wonderfully acted piece of theatre about triumphing over adversity and the unbreakable bonds between a family and their beloved footy. Audiences are encouraged to embrace their own true colours by turning up in their team’s jersey – another lovely touch that places The Longest Minute… in a league of its own. Winner!
THE LONGEST MINUTE opens MAY 31 at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC.