Kiwi entertainment icon and former Navy man Mark Hadlow is touring the country with two plays that have an entertaining take on the story of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
The first, The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy (Abridged), is a light-hearted look at the Navy, while the second, Commander Claire and Pirates of Provence, is a children’s pantomime.
Hadlow, who appeared in The Hobbit movies and recently toured his one-man show, MAMIL (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) around the country, is a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserves, so was the perfect fit to direct both plays.
“When I came up with the idea of a couple of productions to tell the story of the Navy and its family, I wanted to make sure that both shows appealed to the widest possible audience we could,” he says.
“Not just informative but fun – entertainment that touched all generations. So a pantomime for the littlest and a family show hit every age group.”
The Complete History runs from Captain Cook to the present day in about an hour and a quarter. On the way William Edward Sanders’ encounter with a German U-boat is delivered entirely in jack-speak – navy slang – with a translation thrown in. A WWII portion features the Battle of the River Plate, with a hilarious comparison of gun sizes before the German raider is brought down to size.
In the pantomime, Hadlow’s daughter Olivia enjoys her theatrical debut as Commander Claire, who prompts plenty of boos, cries of dismay and cheers as she prevails against wicked French pirate Captain Langlois (Zak Enayat) and his insane rooster Napoleon – with the help of the audience, of course.
Hadlow says the pantomime is a fabulous introduction for young Kiwis to the delight of live theatre, as well as the RNZN, while The Complete History is funny, informative, poignant and moving.
“It is truly a celebration of 75 years of many Kiwi men and women who have spent their lives serving their country, some making the ultimate sacrifice.
“Being involved with the Navy since leaving school I know how important it is to tell the story of the proud history of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
“The challenge was to engage the New Zealand public in realising how important the Navy is and coming to see a couple of shows that not only entertain but offer a huge appreciation of the vital role it plays in the security and protection of our nation.”
Both plays were written by Gregory Cooper, who is no stranger to condensed histories – he co-wrote and performed in The Complete History of New Zealand (Abridged), The Complete History of Christchurch, NZ Rocks (The Complete History of New Zealand Music) and The Complete History of World Rugby. He also wrote MAMIL (Middle Aged Men in Lycra).
The plays are sponsored by Siemens. Chief executive Paul Ravlich said his company shared a long history with the RNZN, starting in the 1980s with the two original ANZAC frigates and continuing today with the delivery of benchmark technological upgrades to the ships.
“Now, as the Navy celebrates its 75th birthday, we are pleased to support the Navy Players Theatre Tour. I commend RNZN’s efforts to bring the heritage of the Navy closer to the hearts of people.”
All proceeds from the plays will go to local charities.