On and off the stage

Actor, comedian, singer, writer, producer, and director, Mark Hadlow wears many hats and is one of New Zealand’s most loved and well-known performers. His outstanding appearances in musical theatre and plays, as well as television and movie roles have lead to him receiving multiple awards for his work. Metropol writer Georgia Summerton chats to him about memorable moments, and what’s next.

When The Rain Stops Falling (2014), Photography Danielle Colvin. Courtesy of The Court Theatre.

Mark’s connection to Christchurch runs deep, going back 50 years, and is the place his love of performing was born.

“I went to Christ’s College and was a boarder in Flowers House for four years. Seeds for a career in performance were well and truly planted by Bob Field-Dodgeson. He saw the raw and sometimes annoying talent that was suppressed somewhere. After leaving school with four subjects in school cert (hilarious) I joined the RNZN Band and learned how to make brilliant pots of tea for the whole band, a skill I still possess.

“I went to Theatre Corporate drama school in 1978 under the tutelage of Raymond Hawthorne and a masterclass of working professional actors who taught us. What an education. I joined the Court Theatre Company at the beginning of 85, in the play called Trafford Tanzi. A wrestling theme. Loved it.

“The Court was an amazing grounding and learning curve. So many wonderful actors and the Company as a whole. Elric Hooper was the Artistic Director who carved a path for actors learning and creating opportunities to embrace. Vibrant times and the plays and the different talents and crafts we got to experience were phenomenal. You literally learned on the job. Since then, I’ve been a regular actor and director.”

Throughout a career with as much depth as Mark’s, memorable moments are aplenty. There are a few plays that particularly stand out for him, including Andrew Bovell’s When The Rain Stops Falling. “What a play. It has significant memories for me for so many reasons. I worked with some of the most talented NZ actors I know, some Court stalwarts. The play was controversial in its subject but riveting due to the writing, direction, set design, lighting and costumes, and of course the actors. It was intense and almost uncontrollable every night. Not very often do you get to do a play and all the ingredients are there. I learned the seven-page soliloquy up on Arthur’s seat when I was in Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival with the NZ Army Band. It was very real. And very lonely.”

Performing arts is one of the industries that among many others, has struggled immensely over the last few years due to the disruption of Covid-19. Mark has a huge amount of admiration for all those who have battled against the destruction. Although his mindset remains optimistic, with no time for blame and bashing.

“In amongst all this doom and gloom, the core component of my mental health and my priority has been my little grandson Tom, he is my muse.”

Mark loves the whole process of creating a production. “When I’m acting, the rehearsals and the way the cast involve themselves, evolve their character in scenes, and create the through-line for their roles is fascinating. All the accoutrement and armoury that an actor brings to the floor. Sometimes it’s mesmerising watching their personifications take shape. Line learning is the worst part, frustrating but essential.”

As far as the much-needed inspiration, Mark says that for him, it’s usually an internal thing, although he is also inspired by those around him. “Watching and listening to colleagues and how they find their modus operandi, that’s amazing, and I think that’s the best way of finding your own true inspiration. People who inspired me, well there are many great actors and performers, all with different peccadillos; but one of my earlier inspirations was Ronnie Barker, Open All Hours, true master of character. And Les Dawson, just loved him.”

Currently living in Nelson, Mark is enjoying all of the delights it has to offer. “It’s incredible, the people, walks, eateries and biking is amazing, and the family (and Malcolm my golf bro) love coming to stay. Especially two-year-old grandson Tom, he and I whip out on the eBike as much as possible, him in the Thule seat and we are gone.”

It is looking like an exciting year ahead for Mark, with two new films on the horizon.

“One a lead in a police thriller and one a headmaster in a Kiwi 1970s kid-ult story. I will get to work with some brilliant people in the cast and crews, so that will be exciting. Another postponement (4th) of the South Island tour of Winding Up by Roger Hall. Alison Quigan and I can’t wait to get that tour on the road, hopefully sometime in 2022. The development of a TV series with some very good writers and hopefully more MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra) exploits. Yeah, out of the colossal calamity of Covid the invigoration of continued association and joy of being an actor in a professional Theatre Company. And fingers crossed being able to see my 90-year-old mum, Pamela, in Australia whom I haven’t seen for nearly three years.”

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