Sunday, January 2, 2011

Theatre review - Jonny Brugh's The Second Test

I went along to The Second Test, Jonny Brugh’s excellent one-man play the week before Christmas. Madeleine Marie Slavick, who also went, emailed me her own review of the play. I’ll include it here as part of the “Tingling Catch” blog archive of cricket-related material:


The One Man Test

Review of Jonny Brugh’s ‘The Second Test’, Circa Theatre,
Wellington, 7-23 December 2010

‘Courage is always original’ said Wittgenstein, and Jonny Brugh is originality, wit and versatility in The Second Test, a one-man show in which he performs as about fifteen individuals: Cricketer Bob Blair, 19-year-old Nerissa Love and her grandmother, several members of the 1953/54 New Zealand Cricket team on a ship and on the Johannesburg grounds, the then Prime Minister Sidney Holland; and over in apartheid-run South Africa, Brugh becomes an Afrikaans broadcaster, a racist assistant, and the fiercely fast and unsportsmanlike bowler Neil Adcock.
‘What are you doing here’ is asked throughout, sometimes with ‘hell’. Why play cricket, why do you love me, why wake me up in the middle of the night, why can he get away with almost ripping off my ear, why do we need to shake his hand in the rain, why do I need to bat a six to prove that I love you and why are you dead?
On the stage: a four-foot-high mock radio, a wooden chair, hat, bat, lectern, and Brugh, increasingly sweaty through the eighty minutes of the drama, especially under his right arm.
I love the peripheries of sound. In the way the Ellis Park audience, still full of goodwill on that Boxing Day, is heard, then not heard. The way Brugh creates a strong male ‘hah’ laugh that is not a laugh but an affirmation and a bit of bravado. Brugh also sounds a camera click, the rolling down of a wet car window, the kiss, and the cricket bat pecking its centre placement in the crease.
The details make us laugh. Red balls landing in open sea. ‘Whose blood is that?’ a young player asks, at bat. ‘And whose is that?’ The team is given six pairs of socks – among other cricket basics – before that pre-Christmas journey, six weeks across sea. In Melbourne, two weeks into the ride, Blair and Love (well, Brugh and Brugh) talk on the telephone about their wedding and snorkling. An hour or so before the Wellington-Auckland train, Love listens to the first test on the radio, courtesy of telegraph technology, waiting, all of her waiting, for her six.
The image, seen, unseen. There is footage of Table Mountain, the remains of the train at Tangiwai, the famous white cotton around Bert Sutcliffe’s head, the inside of which is soothed by a few glasses of necessary whiskey. What is not projected on the Circa screen is Blair travelling to the pitch through the tunnel, also famous.
Sometimes only the body can speak. When Blair hears the news of Love’s death, he wants to be in Petone, where the Blair and Love families live, but Petone is six sea-weeks away. Stuck, distraught, he then needs solace, and several hours of tea. When courage can come, his body wants to be ‘useful’, so he walks unannounced through that tunnel and into Ellis Park, where he and Sutcliffe can cry, unashamed. As New Zealand teammates in the pavilion, though unable to meet each other’s eye. As many in the South African and international audience. The love in this test goes beyond the Blair-Love to the whole glory of sport, which urges us to be our most courageous and most vulnerable, our most spontaneous and most original.
As a release, at the end of the evening, we see the New Zealand team lighter, together, in one pool, swimming. Maybe all of us ready, for other kinds of tests.

Review © Madeleine Marie Slavick

Madeleine Marie Slavick, an author based in Wellington, attended the 14 December 2010 performance of The Second Test. A teenage athlete of basketball and baseball/softball, she came to the game of cricket through Mark Pirie’s book, A Tingling Catch, which collects poetry and song from about 150 years of the game
Sources: ‘What Are You Doing Out Here’ (2010) by Norman Harris, and conversations with David Mealing, curator of the
New Zealand Cricket Museum. This article is forthcoming in the Museum newsletter.

Jonny Brugh's The Second Test, Circa Theatre,
7-23 December 2010

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