Tom Waits' musical makes Kiwi debut in Christchurch

A musical written by cult American singer Tom Waits is making its New Zealand debut in Christchurch. 

The Black Rider is a seriously weird tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil for a magic bullet.

Lyttelton singer Delaney Davidson is a self-confessed wandering minstrel, but he's enjoying the opportunity to stay still for a bit.

"I've done a bit of theatre in the past so this feels like a return to that, but in a more dramatic role."

That dramatic role is the devil himself, the lead role in The Black Rider

The dark-humoured musical was first staged in 1990 but this is the first time it's been put on in New Zealand. The producers are keen to bring back the weirdness to Christchurch theatre, following a long rebuild.

George Parker of Christchurch Free Theatre says the opportunity to stage avant-garde theatre in the Arts Centre is critical to Christchurch's theatre scene.

"We want it to be a gateway for the region that says, 'You know what? Christchurch is a place that's different, exciting, and welcomes diversity.'"

The Black Rider, a twist on a 19th century German opera, was written by Beat Generation writer William S Burroughs and gravel-voiced singer Tom Waits.

Davidson's not daunted with approaching the two cult icons' work.

"Artists create work and everybody should be able to take it, perform it, do what they want to it, keep the flow of creative process going."

The show, which runs until May 6, takes place in the expansive Arts Centre Gym, formerly the Academy Cinema.

Fitting with the twisted themes, even the stage is a bit skewiff.

"That's a challenge, but I guess it's a real benefit for us because the space itself lends ideas to what we can create, how we can engage with an audience," says Dr Parker.

It involves a deal with the devil that, of course, goes horribly wrong.

Quoting Burroughs, Dr Parker explains: "The devil's bargain is a fool's bargain, because the devil deals in quantity, not quality. And for an artist, that's death."