The greening of Gisborne

ON TOP: Touring actor/singer Chris Green performs Cassandra Tse’s solo work, Under, at Unity Theatre from tonight through to Wednesday. On March 23 and 24 he performs Sweet Dreams, also at Unity, where he will be accompanied by pianist Thomas Nikora, and joined by Gisborne singer Lulu Vermeulen. Picture supplied

He is busking outside Countdown when the Guide phones for a few words.

“Busking is how I earn my living. There is no guarantee you’ll get good houses for shows so I busk. I adore busking. It’s the most avid audience you’ll get anywhere in the world.”

He will sometimes busk a few songs from the shows he is touring with. His selections tend to the show tunes — Cole Porter, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera.

“I sing to a backing track so I have to make my busking a bit more interesting. The classic stuff does that really well. I’ve found a niche for myself.”

Green was last in Gisborne in 2017 to perform New Zealand playwright Mervyn Thompson’s Coaltown Blues.

This time around he planned to stage two shows — Cassandra Tse’s poetic solo work, Under, and Sweet Dreams, a concert of songs that tell short human stories. Then he agreed to do a lunchtime concert as well.

“I had such a lovely time when I was last here I thought while I’m here, go for it.”

For the lunchtime concert he performed yesterday, Green settled on the works of American songwriter John Bucchino who has songs recorded by artists that range from Art Garfunkel to Patti LuPone. The musical director of a production of Cats Green was involved in recommended Bucchino. The Bucchino albums the musical director gave to Green sat in his music collection.

Then one day Green’s mum wanted to plan her funeral. She was well but wanted to plan ahead. Her plans included having her son sing at her funeral.

“I went through the record collection and found Bucchino’s Grateful. It was written for my mum. That was my introduction to Bucchino. Since then I’ve fallen in love with his songs.”

Green initially struggled with the American composer’s songs.

“The music and lyrics are so intricate. I thought ‘what have I done?’ But I’ve met the challenge.”

Another challenge was taking on the solo play Tse wrote for him.

“It’s so beautifully crafted the challenge in Under is getting it word perfect. I don’t want a word out of place.”

Green initially had a go at writing a piece he could perform.

“It was a complete disaster. I’d seen some of Cassandra’s early work. It was beautiful. I went to her and said ‘could you write something for me?’”

He asked for something along the lines of a vaudeville show with lots of characters and music. The script arrived 18 months later. It had no music, only two characters and some humour, but it was not a comedy.

“All of those things we had agreed on had gone.”

He read Tse’s script for Under, a play that explores an unnamed narrator’s relationship with his wife May, an athlete and an artist who has disappeared.

“It was the most bizarre experience. It was like watching your children do sport, it’s the best thing you’ve seen. Essentially, I’m telling the stories of the narrator and his wife’s life.

“He has lost his wife and is desperately trying to find her. He asks the audience for help by telling these stories.

“I’ll be surprised if you’re not gobsmacked.”

He is busking outside Countdown when the Guide phones for a few words.

“Busking is how I earn my living. There is no guarantee you’ll get good houses for shows so I busk. I adore busking. It’s the most avid audience you’ll get anywhere in the world.”

He will sometimes busk a few songs from the shows he is touring with. His selections tend to the show tunes — Cole Porter, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera.

“I sing to a backing track so I have to make my busking a bit more interesting. The classic stuff does that really well. I’ve found a niche for myself.”

Green was last in Gisborne in 2017 to perform New Zealand playwright Mervyn Thompson’s Coaltown Blues.

This time around he planned to stage two shows — Cassandra Tse’s poetic solo work, Under, and Sweet Dreams, a concert of songs that tell short human stories. Then he agreed to do a lunchtime concert as well.

“I had such a lovely time when I was last here I thought while I’m here, go for it.”

For the lunchtime concert he performed yesterday, Green settled on the works of American songwriter John Bucchino who has songs recorded by artists that range from Art Garfunkel to Patti LuPone. The musical director of a production of Cats Green was involved in recommended Bucchino. The Bucchino albums the musical director gave to Green sat in his music collection.

Then one day Green’s mum wanted to plan her funeral. She was well but wanted to plan ahead. Her plans included having her son sing at her funeral.

“I went through the record collection and found Bucchino’s Grateful. It was written for my mum. That was my introduction to Bucchino. Since then I’ve fallen in love with his songs.”

Green initially struggled with the American composer’s songs.

“The music and lyrics are so intricate. I thought ‘what have I done?’ But I’ve met the challenge.”

Another challenge was taking on the solo play Tse wrote for him.

“It’s so beautifully crafted the challenge in Under is getting it word perfect. I don’t want a word out of place.”

Green initially had a go at writing a piece he could perform.

“It was a complete disaster. I’d seen some of Cassandra’s early work. It was beautiful. I went to her and said ‘could you write something for me?’”

He asked for something along the lines of a vaudeville show with lots of characters and music. The script arrived 18 months later. It had no music, only two characters and some humour, but it was not a comedy.

“All of those things we had agreed on had gone.”

He read Tse’s script for Under, a play that explores an unnamed narrator’s relationship with his wife May, an athlete and an artist who has disappeared.

“It was the most bizarre experience. It was like watching your children do sport, it’s the best thing you’ve seen. Essentially, I’m telling the stories of the narrator and his wife’s life.

“He has lost his wife and is desperately trying to find her. He asks the audience for help by telling these stories.

“I’ll be surprised if you’re not gobsmacked.”

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