Coaltown Blues a show for the times

LETTER

Labour’s on the rise. It’s 1935. The year Michael Joseph Savage became prime minister and playwright Mervyn Thompson was born.

Thompson went on to write the play Coaltown Blues about his life growing up in a West Coast coal mining town. And in 2017, 10 days before New Zealand’s 52nd General Election and amid a seemingly unstoppable Labour rise, Chris Green performs this one-man show of multiple characters with gusto and sensitivity.

The play, directed by Lindsey Rusling and performed at Gisborne Unity Theatre’s black box in Ormond Road, with seating for 50, is both moving and entertaining. Green, a baritone, intersperses engaging song with soliloquy as he alternates with ease between boy, father, mother and school friends. His evocative set of smoke, corrugated iron, newspapered walls, saw horses and coal buckets complements the story of a boy in a fictional town during the Depression, war and post-war eras.

It’s political and personal, taking in the rise and fall of the Labour and union movements through the war years, a memorable VJ Day in 1945, and post-war austerity, to the National government versus unions confrontation of the 1951 waterfront strike to which miners aligned themselves in solidarity. Then there’s the story of a Tory-hating mother, serial pregnancies, Protestants and Catholics, discipline, bullies and domestic violence, the use of electric shock therapy and even the introduction of free school milk. Something for everyone.

It’s an insightful and timely social history made all the more robust through Green’s relaxed yet accomplished style and fine voice.

Get there early. Make the most of the intimate, welcoming lounge.

Coaltown Blues runs tonight and Friday with matinee shows at the weekend.

Sheridan Gundry

Labour’s on the rise. It’s 1935. The year Michael Joseph Savage became prime minister and playwright Mervyn Thompson was born.

Thompson went on to write the play Coaltown Blues about his life growing up in a West Coast coal mining town. And in 2017, 10 days before New Zealand’s 52nd General Election and amid a seemingly unstoppable Labour rise, Chris Green performs this one-man show of multiple characters with gusto and sensitivity.

The play, directed by Lindsey Rusling and performed at Gisborne Unity Theatre’s black box in Ormond Road, with seating for 50, is both moving and entertaining. Green, a baritone, intersperses engaging song with soliloquy as he alternates with ease between boy, father, mother and school friends. His evocative set of smoke, corrugated iron, newspapered walls, saw horses and coal buckets complements the story of a boy in a fictional town during the Depression, war and post-war eras.

It’s political and personal, taking in the rise and fall of the Labour and union movements through the war years, a memorable VJ Day in 1945, and post-war austerity, to the National government versus unions confrontation of the 1951 waterfront strike to which miners aligned themselves in solidarity. Then there’s the story of a Tory-hating mother, serial pregnancies, Protestants and Catholics, discipline, bullies and domestic violence, the use of electric shock therapy and even the introduction of free school milk. Something for everyone.

It’s an insightful and timely social history made all the more robust through Green’s relaxed yet accomplished style and fine voice.

Get there early. Make the most of the intimate, welcoming lounge.

Coaltown Blues runs tonight and Friday with matinee shows at the weekend.

Sheridan Gundry

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