Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward Street, Kensington, Dunedin

30/09/2016 - 01/10/2016

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

23/10/2016 - 23/10/2016

Dunedin Arts Festival 2016

Nelson Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

A naval romp through the decades 

Taking the country by storm is the Royal New Zealand Navy’s fast paced romp through the decades to mark its 75th anniversary. Landfall in Dunedin will be at the Festival.

The theatrical and comedic talents of Mark Hadlow (director) and Greg Cooper (writer/actor), who together devised the uproariously funny MAMIL (Middle Aged Men in Lycra), have been at work again. Through song, silliness and satire these script masters indulge their madcap humour at every opportunity taking you with them. Don’t expect a history lesson but don’t be surprised if you learn something.

The Festival is delighted to bring this rollicking performance to the Mayfair Theatre and invite you on board. Hold on to your senses it’s going to be one choppy ride!

Fri 30 Sep 8pm
Sat 1 Oct 8pm

Mayfair Theatre
Please note – this venue has changed from the Regent Theatre as previously advertised

General Admission

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Nelson Arts Festival 2016

Sun 23 Oct, 6.30pm 
UNDER 19 $15
FAMILY (4 people, max 2 adults) $65
(Family booking only available at Theatre Royal Nelson) 
Book Now! 

Theatre , Musical ,

1 hr 15 mins

Impressive and gently educational

Review by Gail Tresidder 25th Oct 2016

How clever to tell the story of our navy in such a witty way.  The audience love it and, as a Panic Party, wave hands over their heads, scream with enthusiasm, and laugh – a lot.

The four actors – Greg Cooper, Andrew Ford, Semu Filipo and Kathleen Burns – are fast-moving and quick, delivering their lines and confidently and energetically interacting with their audience.  In one scene, truly impressive, Burns stuns with a patter song/recitative listing all the RNZN’s 70+ ships with never a hesitant moment.

There is much Kiwi-speak – appreciated – and the most wonderful hats: quite mad, notably the zany ‘orange roughy and the fruit basket worn by the Governor of Montevideo (very Carmen Miranda) and quick ad-libbing, “Oh dear, my grapes fell,” and similar whereever possible.

As the story unfolds, accents are produced to suit: Russian, Scottish, county Essex dialect, French and more; quick changes, along with the characters.  It is nimble stuff.  

And there is sadness too and very moving moments.

It is a delight to watch characters come and go, slowly rising then sinking down again behind the set. Eyes and facial expressions are employed to great effect.  

The cardboard battle ships are worn with panache and there is lots of fun and ingenuity too with simple props used to the max. 

If anything could be improved, it would be the quality and volume of the sound.  In some places it is over-loud, almost to the point of distortion.  Perhaps it is set for a full house – this is not – but hopefully that can be adjusted for the rest of the tour.

All in all, an impressive – and gently educational – performance.


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High seas antics hilarious, serious

Review by Elizabeth Bouman 03rd Oct 2016

The evening show, The Complete History of the Royal NZ Navy, also the work of Cooper and Hadlow and using the same set, was equally well staged as a “grown-up” script presented seven decades of NZ Navy in an outstanding satirical review.

Comical and exceedingly clever, a chronological account of naval history was dealt out in text, rhyming couplets and patter song by a very talented cast (Kathleen Burns, Gregory Cooper, Semu Filipo and Andrew Ford), as specifications of various ships and historical tales of naval battles and events were related with extremely fast and exacting hilarious patter. [More


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You’ll laugh, cry and learn something

Review by Alison Embleton 02nd Oct 2016

“Yes we’ve just started the show now, and we’ve already have two rounds of applause… and a whoop!” This statement is boasted down the phone by writer/actor Greg Cooper to (gasp!) Chief of Navy John Martin within the first five minutes of The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy – Abridged. And for the record, this statement is completely true.

The show is billed as a “rollicking good time”, a declaration which often comes across as a little dubious, bringing to mind tired pantomime tropes and cringe-inducing audience participation. But The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy – Abridged, while incorporating a few pantomime elements (including occasional audience participation- don’t worry though, it’s from the safety of your seat!) manages to avoid being pigeon-holed into this category and so appeals equally to an extremely diverse audience. I laugh just as hard throughout this production as the septuagenarian couple sitting next to me.

The cast (Greg Cooper, Kathleen Burns, Andrew Ford and Semu Filipo) all have impeccable comedic timing and their energy and chemistry together on-stage is very compelling to watch. Their seemingly effortless talent for improvising throughout the show, feeding off the audience reactions as well as each other is delightful. Cooper, Burns, Ford and Filipo each bring something different and captivating to the stage, and have clearly been encouraged to showcase their particular talents in this production. 

Greg Cooper’s writing is witty and hysterical, bringing the 75 year history of the RNZ Navy to life through stories, impersonations, re-enactments, one-liners and songs. A scene delivered entirely in jack-speak (Royal Navy slang) between Burns and Ford, and translated line-for-line for the audience by Filipo, is a particular crowd-pleaser and has now furnished me with the ability to accuse someone of “coughing in their rompers”.  

While tackling 75 years of history in 75 minutes must have been a daunting task, the script certainly seems to do it justice. Selecting certain historical events as well as present day RNZ Navy activities to focus on was a wise choice. These larger story arcs are punctuated with brief round-ups and nods to everything that has happened in-between.

The familiarity with the RNZ Navy (Director Mark Hadlow has a long history with the RNZ Navy and currently serves as Lieutenant Commander) is evident, but even though the entire production is riddled with navy slang, and gags aimed at a RNZN crowd, it never feels like an in-joke. Nor does it come across as disrespectful; the jokes are never mean-spirited or at the expense of the RNZN, or indeed anyone at all.

And while this really is a laugh-a-minute production, there are moments of serious reflection. One in particular stands out: following an acknowledgement of the RNZN’s loss of life throughout the past 75 years the cast silently perform the flag folding ceremony of military funerals, allowing for the audience to absorb the harsh reality of death in the armed forces while paying respect to the sacrifice those people made themselves. The audience is then gently brought back to the comedic realm of the show again, the actors slowly lift the mood without being crass or undoing the poignant work of the prior scene. This feat is one of the highlights- demonstrating the talent of the writing, acting and direction for this production.

The Complete History of the Royal New Zealand Navy – Abridged is great fun. There really is a little something for everyone. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (though probably due to laughing so hard) and you really will learn something about the history of the RNZN. 


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