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Quick and concise, Nelson’s history laid bare in brilliant show

The complete history of Nelson abridged

By the Professional Theatre Company Reviewed by Hugh Neill

On Thursday, I attended the preview performance of Chona at the Energy Centre Founders Park.

As we entered the building, I was immediately intrigued by the stage, a collection of boxes, each designed and painted by students from Nelson’s primary schools, intermediate schools and colleges.

The audience was seated in a semicircle as the stage projected out into the space like a prow of a ship. This was very appropriate as Britain’s famous admiral, Lord Horatio Nelson, after whom our British forbears named our city. He also formed a running gag throughout the show.

Chona is an extremely fast-paced potted history of Nelson, delivered over the space of about 80 minutes, which is delivered by actors, Greg Cooper, Doug Brooks and Donna Botha.

It started by a welcome delivered in faultless te reo by Doug. Doug has a voice that any aspiring actor would simply die for. It is both rich and velvety, with a deep bass quality to it.

Our three intrepid actors gave us a brief, but very entertaining history of Nelson, including how it was originally discovered by Captain Cook, Abel Tasman and D’Urville, how Rocks Rd was built by prisoners, the interactions that occurred with the indigenous settlors such as the Wairau affray, as well as how Nelson’s tomato industry was started by immigrants from Italy some 130 years ago.

Nelson icons such as the Newman Brothers, Ernest Rutherford, Eelco Boswijk and Suzie Moncrief were also mentioned, plus how the game of rugby came to be played.

I was getting a tad worried when we were 75 minutes into the show and we were only up to the 1960s or 1970s regarding Nelson’s history. But no matter! These three highly skilled actors then proceeded to rattle off the next 50 years or so by means of various song styles in the space of 3-4 minutes. It was hilarious.

But this review would not be complete without mentioning Mark Hadlow. Not only did he direct this show, but he is the brainchild of The Professional Theatre Company, which began about a year ago.

Sound was provided by the amazing Bob Bickerton, whose soundscape certainly added another important dimension to the show. Steve Thomas provided the lighting and Pauline Farley the costumes. I don’t know who made/ provided the props, but they were excellent as well. Finally, Greg Cooper, one of the actors, also wrote it.

This is a show, performed by three actors who are on top of ‘their game’.

Their boundless energy left you, the audience, quite exhausted at the end. I, for one, thoroughly recommend you go and see it.

The season runs until December 10.





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