Navy history to be performed aboard HMNZS Canterbury

Actor Mark Hadlow is directing The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy, which is showing aboard HMNZS ...
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

Actor Mark Hadlow is directing The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy, which is showing aboard HMNZS Canterbury in Wellington until November 1.

The navy arrives in town this weekend, but for a different reason from ever before.

HMNZS Canterbury will really be living up to its title as a multi-role vessel, as it is transformed from naval vessel to a 9000-tonne floating theatre today.

To celebrate 75 years of the Royal New Zealand Navy, a tour of two shows, The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy and a pantomime Commander Claire and the Pirates of Provence, has been travelling the country.

Olivia Hadlow stars in the navy's 75th anniversary pantomime Commander Claire and the Pirates of Provence.
Supplied

Olivia Hadlow stars in the navy's 75th anniversary pantomime Commander Claire and the Pirates of Provence.

Most other centres, however, have had the shows in traditional theatres on land.

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Director Mark Hadlow describes the arrival in Wellington as three years in the making, and a "once in a lifetime opportunity".

Writer Gregory Cooper (in barrel) and other cast members of The Compete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy in rehearsal.
Supplied

Writer Gregory Cooper (in barrel) and other cast members of The Compete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy in rehearsal.

Both shows were written by veteran actor, writer and director Gregory Cooper over three months and Hadlow describes first reading the script as a "boom" moment.

He instantly knew this was special, he said.

Hadlow, a lieutenant commander in the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, says The Complete History is a light-hearted look at the history of our navy, going back 250 years to the time of Captain Cook.

It is funny, but also has some incredibly poignant moments, he says.

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"It will give an insight into our navy, to see how cool it really is."

He is also the creative director of Operation Neptune, the collective name for the 75th anniversary celebrations.

It was named to honour the greatest single loss sustained by the navy, when HMS Neptune sank after hitting an enemy minefield in the Mediterranean on December 19, 1941, killing 150 New Zealanders.

The pantomime is directed at three to 12 year olds, and is a "rollicking show about a French pirate" who tries to take over the country and tow it back to France.

The shows have already been seen by 25,000 people throughout New Zealand.

"I don't see how I can explain to people, to use the correct words to tell people how great this show is," Hadlow says. "I don't think it's ever been done, as far as I'm aware,

"This is the first of many."

The ship, which can hold 300 people, is being transformed today, with the arrival of chairs, lighting and everything else required to turn it into a fully-fledged theatre.

Both shows are free and will run on a first-in, first-served basis.

School groups are encouraged to come to the pantomime shows on Monday and Tuesday.

"It's a totally unique experience," Hadlow says. "I am extremely proud of this."

The details:

HMSNZ Canterbury will be docked on the Wellington waterfront from October 29 to November 1.

The pantomime Commander Claire and the Pirates of Provence plays from Sunday till Tuesday at 11am and 1pm.

The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy plays from Saturday till Tuesday at 7pm.

For more information email kylie.bicknell@nzdf.mil.nz.

 - Stuff

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