Middle aged man in lycra takes his issues to the road

Mark Hadlow stars as the middle aged man in lycra.
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Mark Hadlow stars as the middle aged man in lycra.

Mark Hadlow was a bike riding dwarf. It was about three years ago when he was awarded the part of Dori in The Hobbit and he started looking for a way to keep fit. A friend of his suggested riding. It was low impact and as easy as, well, riding a bike. He went for two hours on his first ride. Then he became a convert - tagging along in a six man peloton each week.

He went straight out and bought a bike and his very own lycra outfit.

To his surprise, however, the conversations that went on were not about rugby and beer. They were about men's health and business. They were about relationships and marriage.

"It was enlightening," he says.

They were architects and business owners and doctors.

"There was a spread of able minded and able bodied guys. It was fantastic."

It did not take long for Hadlow to think that his experience as part of this group could make for a great one man show.

The phenomenon known as MAMILs, middle aged men in lycra, almost wrote itself.

There were extraordinary conversations that Hadlow thought his playwright friend Greg Cooper would be interested in.

He created characters from Hadlow's descriptions and put a main character to the forefront. But he wasn't a jobbing actor who was once a dwarf and keen on personal fitness. The main character was a property developer who goes bust in the global financial crisis. His marriage and family breaks apart and then resolves to get his life back on track.

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"The road to redemption is with the peloton," Hadlow says.

It is an exploration into the male midlife crisis in all its lurid glory. The show, Hadlow says is in some respects serves as a spiritual sequel to his celebrated one-man show, SNAG, which was performed in Nelson nearly 20 years ago. Where SNAG was about the rise and fall of a businessman and the roller-coaster of emotions his life became, MAMIL is much more current – taking swipes at the age of entitlement in the new millennium and the fallout surrounding the global financial crisis of 2008.

There is a challenge to writing a good one man show, he says. There are quick changes with Hadlow switching between 10 different characters during the course of the play. It has to maintain a fluidity and energy to lead the audience to a resolution.

That transition sees a lycra loathing BMW driver moving to a bike loving healthy man in his late 40s.

Beyond that, standing alone in front of an audience in tight fitting lycra has its challenges too.

"It's that relationship with the audience that is really important. You need to get their buy in."

Each character needs to be slightly heightened to maintain the audience's interest and provide a good "bounce board" for the main character, Hadlow says.

Plus there is no one there to pick up the slack.

"I've got to know what I'm doing. I can't just phone it in. It has to be a performance every night."

Hadlow says the show has resonated with a far reaching demographic. It's not just the middle aged. It's not just the bike riders. There is something about the story that is universal, he says.

While the ultimate aim of the show is entertainment there has been a byproduct of becoming more health conscious. Hadlow is now an ambassador for Prostate Cancer Foundation.

"Men don't like to talk about it or the uncomfortable finger," he says.

But the truth is early detection is the key.

"You have to stay on top of it."

Beyond that there has been another byproduct - Hadlow is still donning the lycra and heading out on the bike any chance he can get.

MAMIL at the Theatre Royal, June 7, 8 and 9 at 7.30pm

Ticket prices $45/$35 + applicable service fees

Bookings the Theatre Royal – 03 548 3840 or www.ticketdirect.co.nz

 - Stuff

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