Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

23/10/2016 - 24/10/2016

Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward Street, Kensington, Dunedin

30/09/2016 - 01/10/2016

Nelson Arts Festival 2016

Dunedin Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

Ooh la la! Something sinister is afoot. New Zealand is under attack from the infamous French Pirate Captain Langlois and his fiendish Gallic rooster Napoleon. From the Hauraki Gulf to Foveaux Strait, nowhere is safe from his piratical plundering.

When all else fails New Zealand turns to the Royal New Zealand Navy and the courageous Commander Claire to lead the resistance against the feisty French marauder and what she uncovers could change the course of New Zealand history forever!

Written by Gregory Cooper and directed by Mark Hadlow, this fast-paced and funny children’s pantomime has lots of audience participation, puppetry, songs and over-the-shoulder cardboard ships.

It’s perfect school holiday fare that will appeal to children from age 4 upwards and will also have grown ups chuckling.

All performances are free.

Fri 30 Sep 11am + 2pm
Sat 1 Oct 11am + 2pm

Mayfair Theatre
Please note – this venue has changed from the Regent Theatre as previously advertised.
If you have already picked up your free tickets to this show, they will still provide entry to the Mayfair Theatre.

50 Mins No Interval

FREE: reserve your seat at the
Mayfair Theatre Box Office 

Nelson Arts Festival 2016

Sun 23 & Mon 24 Oct,
11am & 1pm
50 mins, no interval
FREE! Claim tickets from Theatre Royal Nelson in advance

Olivia Hadlow
Zac Enayat
Andy Sophocleous

Production Team
Director:  Mark Hadlow
Stage Manager:  TeAihe Butler 
Lights and Sound design/operator:  TeAihe Butler
Set/prop Design and Build:  Richard Vandenberg
Tour driver and assistant:  Mitchell Taylor
Tour Coordinator and assistant:  Kylie Bicknell  

Theatre , Family , Children’s ,

50 mins

Jolly fun had by all

Review by Gail Tresidder 25th Oct 2016

When it comes down to it, nothing works better in a panto than copious mentions of Poos and Wees.  Terrific!  Pirates and grown-ups using dirty words.  So cool!

And how the littlies do enjoy this – delighted laughter, giggles and whispers – and there are fart words and the blowing of rhubarbs.  Marvellous.

So, after a somewhat slow and puzzling start that one suspects goes over the heads of almost all the children, jolly fun is had by one and all.  

Olivia Hadlow is the ‘straight man’ Commander Claire while Zac Eniyat and Andrew Sophocleous are the two stooges, clowning around and over-acting up a storm, as is expected from this very silly plot.  

Eniyat and Sophocleous deliver some neat song and dance routines and the cast is aided and abetted throughout by Napoleon the puppet rooster (“you psychotic chook”) and Pelorus Jack, the R N’s black bulldog with very silly ears.

Naturally, there is a lot of interaction with the audience.  The adorable Lucas brings the message in the bottle up to the stage and as he delivers it to this great big colourful magical pirate, his eyes shine at the wonder of it all.  

This panto is travelling around New Zealand with The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy Abridged revue. It is a clever idea to combine the two.


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High seas antics hilarious

Review by Elizabeth Bouman 03rd Oct 2016

Like most New Zealanders, I was totally unaware that our Royal Navy is now 75 years in existence, but I attended two festival events in the Mayfair Theatre yesterday and became nautically enlightened, both historically and hysterically. 

A big audience of enthusiastic children and grandparents on holiday duty added vocal support in true panto style for Commander Claire and the Pirates of Provence, a fast-paced children’s pantomime that swamped the audience with high-seas adventures, or, more correctly, around the coast of New Zealand. [More


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Plenty of comic business and eager participation

Review by Terry MacTavish 01st Oct 2016

Theatre and the Royal New Zealand Navy seem curious bedfellows, until you realise director (and renowned actor) Mark Hadlow actually was trained in the navy and currently helps out in its public relations department. For the RNZN’s 75th birthday, Hadlow has commissioned the talents of writer Gregory Cooper to create The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy (Abridged), but that is for tonight; the grown-up stuff. This afternoon is given over to the kids in a free show, Commander Claire and the Pirates of Provence, which – with just three actors: Olivia Hadlow, Zac Enayat and Andy Sophocleous – manages to honour all the traditions of pantomime except for the Dame

The picturesque Mayfair Theatre is a sublime setting for a panto, its gently sloping auditorium making it easy to watch everyone else in the audience, and to hop down onto the stage at the merest hint of an invitation from the actors. The cosy sense of community engendered makes it far superior to the originally planned venue, the more formal Regent, for a show like this. It is a pleasure to see hundreds of excited little kids enjoying each other as much as they enjoy the polished performers.  

We get exactly what we are promised: a fast-paced and funny show with lots of audience participation, puppetry, songs, and over-the-shoulder cardboard ships. It’s great to see a female heroine, played by Hadlow’s daughter Olivia, who gives the wholesome, efficient Commander Claire, who “never forgets her epaulettes”, just enough cheekiness to make her appealing.

Claire is called on to save New Zealand from the wicked French pirate with a terrific accent, Captain Langlois, who is actually scheming to tow New Zealand away unless our brave navy can stop him. Of course villains and heroes need comic sidekicks, and with quick changes the three skilful actors succeed in peopling the stage with a series of idiotic characters that elicit delicious giggles from the youngsters.

Bobbing over waves in cardboard vessels, Langlois carries a rooster puppet (probably so he can say ‘look at my coq’) while Claire’s mascot puppet is a dog called Pelorus Jack who likes tummy rubs.  Recorded sound effects make slickly choreographed fights funnier, and music supports catchy songs and enhances the atmosphere.  I think I recognise the William Tell overture at one point. 

The plot allows for plenty of comic business and playwright Cooper sprinkles the script with rhymes, assonance, alliteration, puns and silly names.  If there are a few too many poo jokes for me, well, I’m not the target audience and the kids around me are clearly perfectly happy to laugh at bottom jokes endlessly. Some of the adults, however, look less comfortable about the implications of the puppet animals’ frenzied licking and tickling. They laugh more easily at the references to French nuclear power. 

The children are naturally urged to help Claire, and quite unnecessarily encouraged to ‘make as much noise as you can’. With the master Mark Hadlow himself planted in the audience to get them started, in no time they are eagerly participating, whether up on stage hauling ropes, calling warnings of lurking pirates, or creating a Mexican wave in their seats. We are allowed to show off our knowledge of geography, and taught to count in French. Sadly no Sailor’s Hornpipe, though.

There cannot be too much lively physical involvement for a young audience – my friend’s children, Ilsa and Calan, like best the grand finale: a lively song and dance routine they get to share, shaking it off to an irresistible tune we know all too well. 

Everyone seems happy as they stream out, including a large group of cute pre-schoolers wearing labels that declare them to be Little Treasures. A new generation has been introduced to theatre, and peut-être to the role the navy plays in protecting us from the scheming French. This free show is a most generous gesture, and also a public relations strategy worthy of our armed forces.

Fiercely smart naval officers look a little out of place in the foyer, but smile bravely at the youngsters as they hand out 75th birthday stickers. I resist the urge to ask them for a hornpipe, and wonder if after seeing Commander Claire the kids will be more attracted to the life of a sailor or the life of an actor.  Perhaps, like Hadlow, they’ll manage both.


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