Actor Jonny Brugh prepares for his play The Second Test
which opens at the Fortune Theatre tonight. Photo by Craig
It is a story of love, loss and courage, and actor Jonny
Brugh tells it with barely a prop in sight, let alone another
It is also Bob Blair's story and it is one of the most
poignant moments in New Zealand sport.
Shortly after learning his fiancee, Nerissa Love, had been
killed in the 1953 Tangiwai railway disaster, the
grief-stricken Wellington pace bowler joined a
heavily-bandaged Bert Sutcliffe in the middle during the
second test against South Africa.
A profound silence fell over the large Ellis Park crowd as
Sutcliffe wrapped his arm around his team-mate and
accompanied him to the wicket.
New Zealand lost the test but the pair won the country's
admiration with their sheer courage and glorious
For Brugh, capturing the emotion in his play The Second Test,
which starts at the Fortune Theatre tonight, was a huge
challenge and its success hinges on his ability to draw the
audience into the story with believable portrayals.
"I pretty much just try and play the emotion out with full
sincerity and let the audience decide how to feel," he said.
"I've met Bob Blair and spent some time with him when he came
and saw the play in Wellington. It was emotional and
traumatic for him the first time he came and saw it.
"I didn't ask him how it felt [to lose his fiancee] because
that just seemed like a stupid question. I'm old enough to
have experienced loss."
Brugh (40) switches from a stoic man who is fighting back his
emotions to a dozen or so other characters during the one-man
show which lasts just over an hour.
He plays a highly excitable cab driver called Boy who is the
world's biggest cricket fan, a generic South African
character called Hanse de Villiers, the great Otago and New
Zealand left-hander Bert Sutcliffe and he even plays Blair's
"It sounds like chaos but it's not," Brugh said.
"It is a craft that I've learnt. The characters are not all
performed at once; they are in small groups so it is not
Amazingly, Brugh uses precious few props.
He is in period whites, of course, and there is an old valve
radio in the corner and a chair which comes in handy now and
Other than that there is nothing to hide behind.
He does not even have a cricket bat for all that shadow
The audience does not seem to mind and all that practice
hitting an imaginary ball has had an unexpected benefit.
"I'm in the form of my life, man. I'm averaging 49 at the
moment," the left-hander said.
The Auckland-based actor cut his teeth in the comedy duo
Sugar and Spice and helped write, and performed in, the play
My Brother and I are Porn Stars.
He has also had television roles on the Jaquie Brown Diaries
and made a cameo appearance on the long-running New Zealand
soap Shortland Street.
He wrote The Second Test and has been performing the play
He will perform 18 Dunedin shows during the next few weeks.