Evocative performance brings coaltown struggles to life

A PICK and a shovel were not needed last night at Unity Theatre to discover the dark seams of this country’s struggling underclass.

In his preview performance of Coaltown Blues, solo performer Chris Green of Black Beech Theatre brought to life the struggle of a mining family in a West Coast town that depended on coal for its livelihood.

Against a simple but effective set that served as everything from a mine entrance to a shabby domestic interior, Green personified an entire community darkened by poverty as much as by coal dust.

The shadow of World War 1 extended over the economic slump of the 1920s and 1930s then deepened again with conflicts overseas.

Men were sent off once again to battle for king and country while wives and children languished in poverty at home.

Green slid effortlessly through a variety of characters, ranging from a bemused small boy to a sullen, over-bearing father, besotted with political rhetoric; from schoolyard bullies to a pedantic principal.

A pitifully long-suffering wife and mother’s presence was felt in a battered armchair and a limp line of washing.

While the lack of hope matched the greyness of the weather, Green ensured this lament for the hardships of ordinary mining families facing the challenges of The Depression, of war and the waterfront strike of 1951 did not become a dirge.

His years in musical theatre shone through in rich bursts of song from a variety of eras and he evoked the mining community’s desperation through pathos and humour.

Green’s performance entertained and stimulated his audience and made us aware of how far we have come in a relatively short time yet how often the same dilemmas present themselves.

This show should not be missed.

A PICK and a shovel were not needed last night at Unity Theatre to discover the dark seams of this country’s struggling underclass.

In his preview performance of Coaltown Blues, solo performer Chris Green of Black Beech Theatre brought to life the struggle of a mining family in a West Coast town that depended on coal for its livelihood.

Against a simple but effective set that served as everything from a mine entrance to a shabby domestic interior, Green personified an entire community darkened by poverty as much as by coal dust.

The shadow of World War 1 extended over the economic slump of the 1920s and 1930s then deepened again with conflicts overseas.

Men were sent off once again to battle for king and country while wives and children languished in poverty at home.

Green slid effortlessly through a variety of characters, ranging from a bemused small boy to a sullen, over-bearing father, besotted with political rhetoric; from schoolyard bullies to a pedantic principal.

A pitifully long-suffering wife and mother’s presence was felt in a battered armchair and a limp line of washing.

While the lack of hope matched the greyness of the weather, Green ensured this lament for the hardships of ordinary mining families facing the challenges of The Depression, of war and the waterfront strike of 1951 did not become a dirge.

His years in musical theatre shone through in rich bursts of song from a variety of eras and he evoked the mining community’s desperation through pathos and humour.

Green’s performance entertained and stimulated his audience and made us aware of how far we have come in a relatively short time yet how often the same dilemmas present themselves.

This show should not be missed.

Coaltown Blues by Mervyn Thompson, performed by Chris Green, Unity Theatre September 13-17. Wednesday 13, 7.30pm, Thursday 14, 2pm, Friday 15, 7.30pm, Saturday 16, 4pm, Sunday 17, 2pm. Tickets $20 from i-Site.

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