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Cast members rehearse for The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy (Abridged).

IT’S the Royal New Zealand Navy’s (RNZN) 75th anniversary this year – and the whole country is being given the opportunity to celebrate.

Operation Neptune is under way, with the Navy Players Theatre Tour docking in Invercargill next week.

The team will present The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy (Abridged), which has been written by Gregory Cooper and is directed by Mark Hadlow.

Director Mark Hadlow reacts with laughter.
Director Mark Hadlow reacts with laughter.

The duo brought us MAMIL during this year’s Southland Festival of the Arts, and while they’re trading in lycra for navy uniforms the play promises to be just as fun. Hadlow said Cooper had done a wonderful job of condensing the navy’s history into a light-hearted play.

“He’s done it brilliantly. It’s a great revue-style show full of songs and sketches and laughs. It’s really funny. The four performers are fantastic,” Hadlow said.

The team are also presenting a pantomime, Commander Claire and the Pirates of Provence, for children during their time in Invercargill, which features Hadlow’s daughter Olivia.

People would go away from The Complete History… not being lectured, but learning about the navy, which was fantastic, he said.

“We just want everyone to come and see it. It’s a full professional show which is written by one of New Zealand’s top writers at the moment.”

Hadlow said the story went right back to Captain Cook, so it was a lot of history to include in just over an hour.

“It’s got a time limit on it, they’ve got to get through the whole history of the Royal New Zealand Navy in 75 minutes and… they do it. It’s incredible,” Hadlow said.

The show covered historical events and some of the great things people had done as members of the RNZN, Hadlow said.

“It’s very funny and it’s done in a very respectful, but comedic way. And it’s not done so it’s just in jokes for navy personnel, it’s done so that the rest of New Zealand can get the feel of it.”

However, he didn’t want to give too much away and hoped Southlanders would see it for themselves.

“[About] 13,000 people have seen the show already throughout New Zealand and we’re not even through five destinations…. We’re coming to Invercargill because we wanted to come to Invercargill, so Invercargill needs to turn out for this.”

The navy is something Hadlow is very proud of, being a navy man himself.

Hadlow joined after leaving school at 16, playing in the band until he was 19.

He then rejoined the Naval Reserves in 2009 and is a Lieutenant Commander, with an active role in promoting the work that the navy does.

Hadlow said the navy was a very good choice for a career in the armed forces, as it had so much to offer including the ‘three Cs’ – camaraderie, courage and commitment.

“I’ve been very proud of being a Navy Lieutenant… everyone’s committed to the job we do.”

The actors have also got on board – they’ve been conscripted into the navy to do this presentation.

“They have… their employment contract with the Queen to present this show throughout New Zealand, so in a way they are navy personnel,” Hadlow said.

Low ticket prices were part of the commitment the navy made to the anniversary, with proceeds going back to the local community, Hadlow said.

“The production is basically paid for by the navy in its 75th anniversary for the enjoyment of Invercargill… I’m absolutely humbled to get this out.”

The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy (Abridged). Civic Theatre, Invercargill, Wednesday, September 28, 7pm. $25, plus booking fees.

Invercargill City Council booking office and TicketDirect.

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