The Longest Minute

June 6, 2018

The Longest Minute

I am a proud Queenslander and while it’s no secret that I love fashion, books and the theatre, you may not know that I am also a massive sports fanatic. I remember the days sitting on the hill at Dolphin Oval watching the Redcliffe Dolphins and although these days my passion is for rugby union, my roots will always be maroon. Queensland Theatre has managed to combine two of my favourite things- theatre and sport- in their latest offering ‘ The Longest Minute’. I was delighted to be invited along to Opening Night and curious to  see how they’d combine the two. I needn’t have worried, this production was absolutely brilliant and it seemed the rest of the delighted audience agreed.

Sport and theatre have much in common. There’s the training or rehearsal , the jitters and rituals before opening or kick off and then the spectacle of entertaining the excited crowd or audience before being greeted by applause or jeers at the end.

‘The Longest Minute’ tells the story of the last few minutes of that unforgettable 2015 NRL Grand Final between two Queensland teams – The Cowboys and The Broncos. Do you remember where you were when the Cowboys raised the cup? This play tells the story of a nail biter, a game that was won by a single golden point, that changed the game and the state of Queensland, forever.

About the play

‘The Longest Minute’ is the story of one family, one game and a night that they have waited for their whole lives. It is about the night of the 2015 Grand Final when the Cowboys win an historic victory  to finally lift the cup, but this is not the beginning of the story being told on stage.

The wonderful actors in ‘ The Longest Minute’ tell the story of the footy loving Wright family- from the glory days of Foley Shield legend Frank ‘ The Black Flash ‘ Wright through to his interracial romance with Margaret, the birth of their family – son Laurie and daughter Jess. Along the way we learn about growing up in regional Queensland, where for the diehards, daily life and NRL go hand in hand. Yet it is not only a story about footy. This play makes you think about identity and culture, feminism and respect, as well as family ties and old resentments.

We watched footy loving Jess grow up, in parallel with the trials and tribulations of the NQ Cowboys until 21 years later the day they’ve all been waiting for finally arrives.Yet the win is bittersweet for the members of the Wright family. This plays makes you laugh, cry, think and cheer and the whole audience rose as one to give a standing ovation for this wonderful piece of work.You will be thinking about it and the family it depicts long after you leave the theatre.This is modern Australian storytelling at its very best and bravo to Queensland Theatre for bringing it to Brisbane.

The Cast and Crew

‘The Longest Minute’ is a co- production between Jute Theatre Company from Cairns and Queensland Theatre. It was written with love and passion by unashamed Cowboys fans -Robert Kronk and indigenous playwright Nadine McDonald -Dowd who joke they only really wrote the play because they wanted to meet JT.

This play was so true to the memories I have of growing up in a footy loving family – from rolling down the hill, to Dad grumbling about having to pay for sauce for our pies, chatting to the club stalwarts and remembering the devastation on supporter’s faces after losing the final -again. You can tell when writers write with heart about something they love and this play is brilliantly written, full of honesty and integrity. The play was directed by Bridget Boyle who says, “ The Longest Minute is a rare beast. It’s a show for sports- loving people who think the theatre is not for them. It’s also a show for theatre-loving people who think sport is not for them. Basically- there’s something in this joyful, exuberant and deeply moving story for everyone.”

The actors have performed the play in Cairns and Townsville and their utter delight in receiving a standing ovation here in Brisbane was palpable. They will complete their season in Rockhampton.

Chenoa Deemal was a complete delight as Jess Wright right from her opening lines of “ Rugby League’ll break your heart, always has, always will.” She held the audience captive with her performance as Jess, a girl with a passion for rugby league whose triumphs are always overshadowed by those of her brother Laurie, who’d frankly rather be fishing. It was as though she were born to play this role.

Margaret Wright was played by Louise Brehmer who was the perfect choice. Her voice of reason was a wonderful foil for stubborn, former hero footballer husband Frank, played by Mark Sheppard.

Another shining talent to watch for the future is Jeremy Ambrum who played the character of Laurie Wright with such gentle honesty. His performance brought me to tears.

Lafe Charlton came out of retirement to play the role of Uncle Gordon and his measured performance as wise elder Uncle Gordie was magnificent. Retirement looks like it will have to wait. Lastly David Terry filled the ensemble roles well playing supporters, coaches, talent scouts and dangerous thug in one blood-chilling scene which rocked the previously laughing audience.

And then there was ME plucked from the audience -a timid writer turned player for just a while, with a Cowboy cap perched atop my head, knowing my boys would never forgive me if I dared to drop  the ball. For the record I didn’t. Surprisingly I would be part of the standing ovation as well, much to the delight of my many friends and fellow writers dotted throughout the audience. In Wonder R.J.Palacio said, “Everyone should receive a standing ovation at least once in their life.” He was right.

There is so much to love about this play whether you’re a footy fan or not. So if it’s been a while since you visited the theatre or you thought the theatre was a stiff and formal place to be, think again. Don your favourite footy jersey, grab some family and friends and prepare to have your emotions shaken to the core by this fabulous production. I thought it only fitting to visit again during  State of Origin week so have already bought tickets to take my Broncos and Maroons loving Mum next week. Although we definitely won’t sit in the front row this time!

‘The Longest Minute’ is playing at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC until 23 June. It then heads to Rockhampton to finish the season at the Pilbeam Theatre on the 28th June. The Longest Minute captures all the joy, pain and emotion of a Grand Final in one beautifully crafted play.

Michelle Beesley
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.

Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).