MAMIL: Middle Aged Man In Lycra

Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland

09/06/2017 - 10/06/2017

MTG Century Theatre, 1 Tennyson St, Napier

21/10/2018 - 22/10/2018

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

02/05/2015 - 16/05/2015

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland LIVE, Auckland

25/07/2014 - 16/08/2014

The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North Domain, Havelock North

02/11/2015 - 03/11/2015

Prefab Hall, 14 Jessie Street (access also from Vivian St), Wellington

05/09/2014 - 20/09/2014

The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

30/08/2015 - 03/10/2015

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

31/05/2018 - 02/06/2018

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

09/11/2019 - 14/12/2019


Christchurch Arts Festival 2015

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

Production Details


Formerly a Sensitive New Age Guy (SNAG) in the 90s, one of New Zealand’s most beloved actors, Mark Hadlow, is a little older but his character none the wiser as he returns to the stage as the most polarising of species – a middle aged man in lycra. MAMIL, a new play from Gregory Cooper, premiers at The Herald Theatre, Auckland LIVE, from July 25th and Prefab Hall Wellington from September 5th.

Bryan Cook is a property developer who has accumulated a small fortune building leaking homes. He’s a stressed out, self-medicating, self-loathing arse, killing himself to increase his bank balance while decreasing his golf score. When his business and life fall apart thanks to the global financial crisis, he joins a men’s cycling group to relieve stress and get healthy. Ultimately faced with his own mortality, he makes a few startling discoveries in various cracks and crevices.

An exploration into the male mid-life crisis in all its lurid glory (superbikes replacing sports cars a well-known symptom of this affliction), MAMIL in some respects serves as a spiritual sequel to Hadlow’s celebrated one-man show, SNAG. 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 GFC of 2008 and dodgy partnerships. 

Penned by Gregory Cooper (The Complete History of New Zealand – Abridged, Heroic Faun No. One ), MAMIL stemmed from conversations between the writer and Mark Hadlow. Spending some time with a peloton of riders in 2011, Hadlow was surprised to find the conversations were not male orientated (sex and sports), but rather emotional topics such as relationship and health problems, business… and the odd chat about rugby (we’re only human after all). The conversations taking place through the glorious outdoor scenery were something Hadlow found incredibly uplifting – and an idea which Cooper expanded into the first draft of MAMIL months later. 

Playing a multitude of characters complete with Hadlow’s trademark high energy and childlike enthusiasm once again proves that now in middle age, Hadlow has no intention of slowing down. His work in the current The Hobbit trilogy is a throwback to his early works with Sir Peter Jackson – both in 2005’s King Kong remake and even earlier in the 1989 black comedy Meet The Feebles, earning him “Best Actress” at Italy’s Fantafestival in 1991. Combined with his television work (in particular, Willy Nilly in 2001-2003) and tireless theatrical work, Hadlow has rightfully earned his position as one of New Zealand’s most treasured performers.

A show that knows no geographical boundaries and a universal truth that everyone has an opinion of the MAMIL, Cooper and Hadlow present a poignant and sharply comical look at one of the most polarising of species – the Middle Aged Man in Lycra. The 2015 national tour for MAMIL is currently being planned with international seasons also on the agenda. 

MAMIL plays:

AUCKLAND – The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
25th July – August 16th 2014 at 8pm
Ticket prices $45/$35 + applicable booking fees
Bookings through Ticketmaster – or 09 970 9700

WELLINGTON – Prefab Hall, 14 Jessie Street, WellingtonCity
5th September – 20th September 2014, 7.30pm
Ticket prices $45/$35 + applicable booking fees
Bookings through Ticketmaster – or 04 913 0044.
Wellington tickets on sale from July 30th 


Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin 
2-16 May, 2015 
Tuesday, 6.00pm, Wednesday – Saturday, 7.30pm,
Sunday, 4.00pm (no show Monday)
Gala (first 5 shows) $34, Adults $42, Senior Citizens $34,
Members $32, Tertiary Students $20, High School Students $15,
Group discount (10+) $34 
Bookings:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin
Box Office (03) 477 8323
or visit 

The Court Theatre

Christchurch Arts Festival Season
Sunday 30 August – Sunday 6 September 6.00pm
No shows Monday / Tuesday

The Court Theatre Season
Wednesday 9 – Friday 11 September 8.30pm
Saturday 12 September 6.00pm
Monday 14 September – Saturday 3 October

Tue / Wed / Fri / Sat 7.30pm
Mon / Thurs 6.30pm

Monday to Thursday: Adult $52 / Senior $45 / Under 25 $33 / Court Supporter $43 / Child (under 18) $23 / Group of 20+ $45 
Friday & Saturday: Adult $57 / Senior $50 / Under 25 $38 / Court Supporter $48 / Child (under 18) $28 Group of 20+ $50

BOOKINGS: | 0800 333 100

The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North Domain, Havelock North
Mon Nov 2nd:  5:15pm
Mon Nov 2nd:  8:00pm
Tue Nov 3rd:  8:00pm
General Admission:  $45.00
Concession:  $39.00
Napier Return Bus Transfer:  $11.00


Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna
Friday 9 and Saturday 10 June 2017, 8pm
90 minutes – no interval
Age recommendation 15+
Tickets: Student $25 | Conc $35 | Groups $35 | Adult $45
Presale: Monday 10 April |General sale: Tuesday 11 April
To book, visit or call 0800 111 999 


MAMIL (Remounted)

Following a sell-out premiere season across New Zealand, much-loved Kiwi actor Mark Hadlow remounts for a final ride into Christchurch in the acclaimed one man show, MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra) in all its lurid lycra glory for ‘Le Tour d’Isaac’.

MAMIL, by Gregory Cooper, was lauded in rave reviews in its first outing, and returns to the stage for four shows only, from Thursday 31 May to Saturday 2 June at the Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch.

Hadlow says:“I’m so excited to be bringing the “team” back together for a final ride, in ChCh again, creating the hilarious peloton of Wayne the crusty old retired builder, Harry Krishna, the dairy owner from Papatoetoe; Seamus the grumpy Irish piss head and not to forget the autistic genius of bankruptcy liquidator James Benge……all centred around the flawed anti hero Bryan Cook, a failed property developer from the GFC, peddling crazily toward redemption on ‘Pinarello’ the abusive opera singing road bike.

“There are others, but it’ll spoil the surprise when you see it!

“Greg Cooper (the writer) and myself still find MAMIL a surprise, every audience finding something different within its vibrant versatile content. MAMIL is at least a twice in a lifetime live theatre experience fascinating at every outing.

“Finally and most importantly, you don’t have to be a biker to enjoy MAMIL (Remounted), it’s a chance for non riders to giggle at the absurdity of Lycra abuse in all its glory.  MAMIL (Remounted) is something for everyone, male or female, seniors or juniors.

“I can’t wait and I’m bloody in it! I’m the only one in it!”

MAMIL (Remounted)

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch
Thursday 31 May – Saturday 2 June
90 minutes – no interval
Age recommendation 15+

Tickets: Groups $44 | Adult $55 | Limited VIP Seating $77.50
Presale: Wednesday 21 Feb | General sale: Friday 23 Feb
To book, visit or call 0800 TICKETEK

MAMIL (Remounted)

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

Back by popular demand, this phenomenally successful middle-aged man in lycra has entertained over 40,000, and counting…

Note: Tickets for all performances at the MTG Century Theatre and Napier Municipal Theatre can also be purchased directly from Ticketek at , freephone 0800 842 538, or by visiting the Napier Municipal Theatre box office, 119 Tennyson Street, Napier. (Additional charges and credit card fees may apply).

MTG Century Theatre, Napier 
Sun Oct 21st:  7:30pm
Mon Oct 22nd:  4pm 
Adult:  $52 
Concession:  $47 
Buy Tickets  


Centrepoint Theatre, 280 Church Street, Palmerston North
9 November – 14 December 2019
Wednesday • 6.30PM
Thursday • 7.30PM
Friday • 7.30PM
Saturday • 7.30PM
Sunday • 4PM
Opening Night: Saturday 9 November
Post-Show Q+A: Wednesday 13 November
Student • $25
Concession* • $37; Early Bird $35
Adult • Full $45; Early Bird $40
Dinner + Show • $75
*Seniors and Community Services Cardholders. Valid I.D. is required. 

Mark Hadlow

Writer and Director                 Gregory Cooper 
Set Design and Build               Brian King, Graham Jacobsen 
Original Set Design                  Ashley Holwell 
Lighting Designer                    Jane Hakaraia 
Sound Designer                       Hamish Oliver 
Operator                                   Stephen Paul 
Stage Manager                         George Wallace 

Theatre , Solo ,

1hr 30mins, no interval

A very funny play about change

Review by Tania Kopytko 10th Nov 2019

You cannot reveal yourself much more than by wearing all lycra – save wearing nothing at all – and so this funny and hard-hitting play is about revealing all. In this instance it is a middle-aged man revealing his nasty business deals, selfishness and self- righteousness – and then having to change into a real and vulnerable human being. Written and directed by the very experienced Gregory Cooper, who has a string of successful and diverse plays and theatre credits, this one-man 90-minute play does not shy away from the controversial.

This is a heterosexual, middle-aged, conservative, white man’s world: the sector everyone likes to blame, complain about, tries to challenge and has wished would drop its control of the world. Our main character, a property developer, has the humour and anger of that world – everyone is seen as stereotypes either sexual or cultural.  His nasty South African business partner, his wife who doesn’t stop talking, the German doctor with a Freudian and dominating obsession and, later on, in his cycling peloton, the Irish, Indian and Kiwi guys.

But of course, his world comes unstuck; his business and health collapse. Faced with catastrophes of such monumental proportions, Brian has to change. This is the stuff of the play – how he changes and faces his demons.

The play is cleverly crafted, shifting deftly from episode to episode with the help of excellent lighting by Sean Hawkins and sound by Hamish Oliver. The set is simple – a large raised diamond shape, which could look like a big coffin or a tank. But out of it rises up a wonderful top-quality Italian racing bike.

Mark Hadlow has performed MAMIL 175 times since 2014. His experience – not only in this, but in NZ theatre over the decades – shows, with brilliant timing, secure acting and the ability to change to a variety of characters quickly. It is an excellent 90 minutes of non-stop performing.

However, MAMIL may not be everybody’s cup of tea, especially if people are too politically correct. While the bulk of the audience roar with laughter, there are a few who don’t at times. As a woman I’m not offended because I know there are a lot on men out there for whom this type of humour is real and used every day. Even though they get on with their mates of different cultures, they often still talk in stereotypes – it’s the blokey, matey thing in New Zealand.

But this is a play about change; about change for that section of society the bulk of the world want to become softer, more embracing and fairer. It’s not an easy play, but it is very funny and it certainly causes lots of good vocal audience response. If it gets people thinking about all the things it presents, then it’s doing its job.


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Holds up a mirror to honest self-appraisal

Review by Jenny Wake 23rd Oct 2018

You’d think five and a half decades is plenty of time for any Kiwi bloke to grow up. But at age 55, property developer Bryan Cook is as egocentric as a pre-schooler. 

We first meet Bryan in the grips of road rage. He owns a BMW, believes roads were made exclusively for cars and he’s boxed in by a bunch of MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra). His attitude towards cyclists is entitled, abusive and callous. We soon learn he’s also lewd, crude, complicitly racist and homophobic. In short, he’s an appalling human being.

MAMIL is a one-man show, written and directed by Gregory Cooper, in which Bryan recounts his journey from king of the road to chastened member of the peloton, along the way highlighting some of the worst traits of Kiwi-blokeness.

Mark Hadlow, as Bryan, brings his considerable talents as a comedic actor and singer to the role, revealing Bryan’s complex, confused inner world, from his brashest to most intimate moments. He lays bare Bryan’s psyche with fearlessness and sensitivity.

It’s clear from the audience responses that people experience this play in different ways, their own perspectives connecting them with varied combinations of strands within Cooper’s multi-layered, laugh-a-minute script. Jokes that leave me cold evoke shrieks and guffaws of laughter from others. Some seem to laugh with Bryan, others with the actor who plays him. There’s also the laughter of recognition – Bryan’s ghastly attitudes ring true.

Hadlow’s portrayal of boorish Bryan is so disarmingly frank that I can’t help warming to his character as his privileged life unravels and he hits rock bottom, muddles his way from unassailable self-centredness to vulnerable self-awareness, then takes his first steps towards maturity and redemption. As with TV’s Homer Simpson, I’m affronted by his behaviour and yet embrace his flawed humanity. I know him. I see shades of him in my friends, my family… myself, if I care to look closely enough. 

Hadlow also plays every other character in this story, oddly (aside from his very own ‘Little Ted’) all immigrant Kiwis: dairy owner Harry Krishna, a German doctor, an Irishman, a Yarpie – you get the picture. There’s enough warmth and personality in the way each of these characters is written and portrayed to keep them dancing along the fine line between genuine character and racial stereotype, and Hadlow’s superb and comic dexterity with accents has the audience all but rolling in the aisles.

Through the laughter, MAMIL holds up a mirror. Take a moment – whether you’re young, old or middle aged – for an honest self-appraisal. 


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Some genuinely poignant moments among the schoolboy jibes

Review by Grant Hindin Miller 01st Jun 2018

There are queues outside the theatre and I’m early! The foyer of the Isaac Theatre Royal is packed. Strong turnout – a good sign – and a healthy mix of young and old (there is a justifiable R16 recommendation). Could be the full moon but I think the reappearance of popular Mark Hadlow as hapless property developer Bryan Cook has pulled the punters. Bryan is going on a ride and the audience is lining the rows to clap him home.

I’m often nervous and excited to see a one-man show. If it stalls it’s uncomfortably conspicuous, if it soars it’s a tour de force. Thankfully, admirably, Mark Hadlow is exceptionally splendid, he gives everything he has, and we love him. This is no mean feat. MAMIL demands a workout of considerable memory, physicality, voice control (Hadlow excels at accents) and an aptitude for nuanced performance. 

Hadlow says: “I’m so excited to be bringing the ‘team’ back together … in ChCh again, creating the hilarious peloton of Wayne, the crusty old retired builder; Harry Krishna, the dairy owner from Papatoetoe; Seamus, the grumpy Irish pisshead; and not to forget the autistic genius of bankruptcy liquidator, James Benge… all centred around the flawed anti hero Bryan Cook, a failed property developer from the GFC, peddling crazily toward redemption on ‘Pinarello’, the abusive opera singing road bike.” 

How one person can evoke such a sizeable and diverse group is a feat and I venture the crowd’s favourite character is the smallest member on stage. 

The theatrical dynamics come at well-appointed times. The reveal of the bike, Pinarello, is marvellous (Hadlow has a surprisingly powerful operatic voice). The Tom Jones soundtrack to Bryan’s life is good fun – particularly the reveal of how ‘Delilah’, Bryan’s daughter, acquired her name. The script abounds in jokey one-liners (“the angle of the dangle”) and it’s heartening to experience an unadulterated Kiwi tale. We recognise, sympathise with, groan and laugh at people and situations with which we are familiar. But it’s not a simple farce. There are, in the spokes, deeper themes (marriage and family life, work/life balance, men’s health, and male behaviour and relationships). 

Structurally, the play begins at the end and back-pedals to see how we arrived there. Bryan is a property developer and his leaky homes and failed projects become a metaphor for what will turn up (and down) in his life. When we meet him he’s an angry absent father and husband, he’s a workaholic with an appalling case of road rage. Through a sequence of dramatic downturns he is forced to review his roles and there are some genuinely poignant moments among the schoolboy jibes. At times I think the male humour borders on overload but I notice women laugh the loudest and in the end Bryan pulls it off (forgive me). 

MAMIL (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) has been ‘recycled’ after first hitting the stage in 2014. This is a show that demands and delivers on well-timed lighting and sound changes and Hadlow publicly thanks Stephen Paul for his input at the conclusion of the show. Likewise the Christchurch writer, Gregory Cooper, is warmly thanked by Hadlow. We must acknowledge the mammoth task of writing such a well-packed dynamic script.  

Hadlow deserves the standing ovation he receives – he is a local hero – and the intimacy of the show is crowned by a korero with the audience at the show’s conclusion. MAMIL wins the popular vote; it’s a homegrown tour de force – ‘Le Tour d’Isaac’ – and, as Hadlow observes when extolling the beauty of the Isaac Theatre Royal and the magic of theatre, “It’s better than bloody reality television!” And we agree.


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A play about bullies that also bullies

Review by Genevieve McClean 12th Jun 2017

There’s nothing like giving up your Friday night to find yourself in an auditorium of predominantly grey haired couples laughing at a fisting joke.

For those who don’t know what fisting is, I completely recommend that you google it.  But if you think maybe you don’t want to, I’ll tell you the politest explanation online comes from Wikipedia: “Fisting, handballing, fist-fucking, brachiovaginal, or brachioproctic insertion is a sexual activity that involves inserting a hand into the vagina or rectum.”

I didn’t think it was especially funny.  An esoteric character that may or may not be a facet of the protagonist’s psyche being obsessed with violent anal sex is extremely unfunny to me.

Here is another term that you could consider looking up to enable a comprehension of the remainder of this review: “Parochialism, “a limited or narrow outlook, especially focused on a local area; narrow-mindedness: accusations of parochialism.”

In this case an Insular Parochialism that has the audience redeeming it’s vouchers for a market-led comedy figure.  A larger-than-life clown that represents themselves. In fact a Grotesque, that makes even the most sexist revoltingly racist self-aggrandizing audience member and his wife feel better about his being not-so-bad by comparison.  You think I’m bad?  You should see Bryan Cook the screwed up Property developer who has really lost the plot.  Oh I am like him? Or, you think he’s based on me? Well you should see the really atrociously bad guy who is his boss/ work friend investor/Max …

Gregory Cooper, I am not getting the wrong end of the stick.  I can see full well that this play is designed well.  To draw in its audience, to have them laughing and empathizing with the sexist flaws of character that they share, and then by way of reflection, and the main character’s redemption, to ultimately better themselves, right?  To consider that they too, may benefit from some redemption.  It’s Ebenezer re-written. 

But Hadlow’s brilliant performance of these characters does not lead the audience of this show to any kind of moral epiphany; instead they are calling the shots.  As I said this is a market-driven show, the audience are benefitting from its indulgence in the same way an alcoholic takes his worse alcoholic friend out on the town to make himself feel better about himself.

After half an hour of Hadlow’s relentless delivery, including the homophobic jokes (well received) the tellingly badly written exposition when introducing the character of the protagonist’s wife: “My wife Edie…”  The OTT caricature of the South African businessman (quite racist in its own right), and the rage of racial hatred expressed against some Chinese people on a golf course (“Oh my God I want to kill him”) – received again with hilarity by the crowd – and the obsession with sex and then the fisting, I had more than enough to go on, on Friday, so I went home and wrote this much.

Then I realized I needed to see the rest of the show in order to review it.  So I went back the next night and watched the whole show.  This time I noticed several other people leaving before it ended.  One group left during the relentless anal examination scene.  I’m not surprised. For all the homophobic references to gay sex I’ve heard in my life, one thing none of my gay friends and acquaintances ever do is invite me into a situation where I am to see them act out their violent gay sexuality all focused on the rectum.  The constant inference that being gay is to be rectum-obsessed is a field of discourse largely occupied by straight men who have to focus on bottoms, speaking a fear that gay men might actually treat them violently, the way they would like to treat women.

This is more comprehensive than my reviews often are, but I am still affronted and perturbed by the play. I find it to be inexcusably repellant, irresponsibly racist, and quite possibly unlawful in its treatment of character in relation to human rights issues around harassment. The following is to explain why.

A Grotesque in theatre is the carrier of a moral, visual and/or behavioural threat.  The effect on the audience is to remind them what collapse of behaviour towards the bestial, base or devilish potential they might, without some discipline, succumb to.  In Hadlow’s hands the Grotesque is a great piece of performance work.  I hope very much to see Hadlow rescued from this play, where hops around the stage like a puppet on a hotplate, and offered some roles in which his talent can be promoted in more fulfilling circumstances.

The best thing about MAMIL, the play, is the concept, as it is depicted effectively by the poster.  I hope we include MAMIL into our greater social lexicon, because the wider society could ultimately benefit from the self-reflective discourse that this concept offers.  Unfortunately, the show I started watching the returned to is very basic in every sense of the word, and in no way betters the simple and effective message of the poster itself.

What is really the problem with this play? Large numbers of people seem to find it entertaining and enjoy themselves watching it.  Why do I have a problem with it?  I am happy to explain.  And no, I am not prudish or hateful; in a different context a show that includes references to killing Chinese people and fist fucking could be quite successful, I’m certain. 

Competitive funding in the arts leads to homogeneity, leaving theatre practitioners impotent and requiring audience to contribute to market driven results. There are other ways in society that theatre is created, for this very good reason. The effect of this competition is homogenizing and debasing of theatrical content.  Theatre, just like any exceptional business initiative, must take the upper hand over its audience and lead the dance; it should push back against the demands of the crowd for self-abuse, or obsequious reassurance, and give them something better than their offer.  What is wrong with this production is its audience and its backers being one and the same. Clinically speaking, that’s insular parochialism. 

A list of abuses of rights that could cause offence in the play:

  • References to violence minimized and normalized. 
  • The wife who took out a restraining order, which was in response to violence with a golf club.  Menacing of a child.  But it’s never mentioned again.
  • The personal and sexual harassment of the Briscoes lady, who everyone in New Zealand recognizes as an individual woman, by focusing on her in a sexual fantasy while simulating masturbation on stage as a comic sketch.
  • The racism using stereotype against members of the community who are: 
    – Afrikaans
    – Indian
    – Irish
    – Chinese
    – German.
  • The Harrassment and ridiculing of a disabled person, using a tight high voice and awkward limb control,  and the line (to paraphrase): “Of all people I could have hit I hit Rain Man…”
  • Also this sentence (again paraphrasing):  “There was something about him that was wrong, I dunno, like he had Asperger’s or something   ….I just wanted to hit the moron”  (This line was muttered quite fast, I need clarification of this line.)
  • Harrassment in representation of homophobia in a normalised way, thereby depicting Gay people as people who are also obsessed with violence in relation to anal penetration.
  • Harrassment by objectification of women’s bodies.
  • Ridicule of someone who has something wrong with them and might need medication. “There’s something wrong with me, I need drugs…”

I could write a lot more about the disembodied penis with the voice of a child, but the content of the discussion sounds as though it is an intimate partner…   Suffice to say that where the ridicule of the wife is missing in the dialogue in the play (we only see the violence, and then the outcomes), it is probably present in the dialogue with the penis). 

If you think this all seems over the top, or too PC, please, I encourage you to read the review to the end.

As mentioned above, Faustian devilry is provided by the German character who fetishizes an interest in anal matters and military style dominant behaviour. However he starts by talking to Bryan about ‘Genesis’ in The Bible, suggesting he broke his rib because of the story of Adam’s rib being used to create Eve.  So, this is a Christian morality tale after all. At least a take on it.  Can I just say that if I was German I would be appalled at the treatment of this ugly and ignorant caricature. Particularly as the character in MAMIL uses a Nazi salute.  In Germany, all artefacts and presentation of Nazi materials are forbidden.  It’s not wise to bandy around something like that in a comedic stage show.  The inferences are disgraceful to us as a nation.

As the play progresses the same character becomes the doctor who examines Bryan’s anus for a long protracted couple of minutes with an exuberant physicality, which causes Bryan to get an erection; subsequently he tells his new cycling mates that he’s gay.  There is no strong outcome for the gay theme, it is merely used as another way of describing his loss of status. 

Bryan descends into misery, and is rebuilt a new man. Let’s have a closer look at the character arc of this rebuild.

A brief synopsis of Bryan’s character arc of redemption:

  1. The Asperger’s man who was hurt in the original car accident turns out to be a liquidator who assesses Bryan’s financial losses, and thereby gains financial status over Bryan and invites him to join the cycling group.
  2. The cycling group has a ranking system, and the boss is a white older man who has had his concreting business destroyed by Bryan’s property investment interests. 
  3. The other three characters are the ‘Rain Man’ liquidator character, and two characters who have very little in the way of character arc: 

    A happy Indian man who wobbles his head as he speaks and encourages Bryan to wear Lycra because he will be a hit with his missus.  He also offers too much information about his own sex life.  This is unlike any Indian man I have ever met in my life.  It’s clearly a ruse to give edge to the sense of Bryan’s shame around sexual impotency.  The Indian is fitter than Bryan and rides his bike with his arms crossed.

    The other character is Irish, who is surly and swears and says very little.  And has also had one of his testes removed.

  4. Bryan starts to wear lycra, and suffers a humiliating experience because the group requires newcomers to go and buy the coffee when they start wearing lycra; he falls over in the Café and gets a call on the phone to say that he needs to have a testical removed because he has cancer. 
  5. This layering of events that lessen his status cause him to experience some inner changes. He phones Edie and is vulnerable and lost sounding on the phone. I think we can safely assume he is being nicer to her.
  6. Ultimately Bryan approaches the older team leader and tells him that he is the very same asshole who destroyed his concreting business. At which point the older team leader is a lot like the good angel in a Faustian play, or a Gandalf, or a Dumbledore who in a single breath grants him a new business opportunity as well as the forgiveness that Bryan clearly needed to get all his status back. 
  7. Then he’s cleared of Cancer, and he gets his wife and kids back. 

Ok, so, the immediate problem I have with this redemption arc is in finding the redemption.  I’m going to step away from the faint Christian medieval narrative line here, because you can safely say that there might have been some unforgivable xenophobia in C15 Jacobean theatre which we all like to think that we’ve improved on over the last six hundred years. 

So there is no actual redemption for many of Bryan’s wrongs in this narrative.  He is racist, violent, sexist and a bully; he is also weak when it comes to being bullied himself; he is the kind of person who would like to hit someone because they have Asperger’s syndrome. He is the kind of person who would attack his wife with a golf club, and stop and stare directly at a woman breasts in public without any shame or empathy for her discomfort.   In fact there’ is a great job done here of painting an extremely flawed and revolting person, BUT his moral turnaround is entirely based on confronting the moral issue of having destroyed another white man’s business.  Seeing as he has lost his financial investment himself.  And also suffered testicular cancer. 

Which /hang on?  How does that add up?  Because while having cancer is terrible – and I would like to express my sympathy for men who have suffered with this problem and I do think it’s very important to consider it and talk about it – it is not a basis for redemption.  Unless it is the Faustian equivalent of the devil appearing out of a trapdoor in the floor and dragging you into hell.

In the structure of the play he is not redeemed.  He has also become impotent.  That is a sorry state to be in for a guy, believe me I know.  Very frustrating and upsetting, and getting medical assistance to maintain your erection can be an enormous relief, particularly if you have a wife who really does want you back in real life.  But it is not an excuse for violence of any kind.

So this character’s redemption is only with two things: his bank balance, and his penis. 

He has no apology for the disabled man who he hit with a car in the first instance.  He has no apology for his wife or child, neither of whom we meet in the story, so they effectively, in the script, remain chattels to the man.  There is no internal apology for the play treating other characters as offensive racial stereotypes.

One result of creating a morality play that has an outcome like this is that it’s not moral. It has no moral ground on which to say that it has done a good thing as a piece of theatre. Another outcome more specifically is that the absence of moral redemption in the character arc of a play about morality adds to the effect of the entire script from start to finish being open to interpretation for its surface value rather than its character’s flaws. 

What I mean by this is that if you set up a character to be a bad person, like someone who says that he wants to hit a disabled person for example, and you offer the arc of redemption but you don’t redeem that bit, it more exclusively suggests to the audience that that bit did not need redeeming. 

And in this case, the play also suggests that other characters’ flaws are maybe not as bad either.  The character of Max, who wants to kill Chinese people on the golfcourse; who puts his money in a family trust and jumps ship: obviously a bad character. However he is the winner of the redeemed status play-off in this show. The audience identify with Max, as does Bryan.  If Bryan could have been Max he would have been.  The only thing Max has done that Bryan hasn’t, is not lost a testicle, and not lost his money. 

So it excuses that behaviour and normalises it.  We can no longer say, “Oh but Max is a racist character…” because this is a play with no redemption for the racism of the protagonist either. We need, then, to say that this is a racist play. 

To clarify, the basis for Bryan’s moral redemption is money and sexual status.  Max has money and sexual status from the outset.  By the end of the play, Bryan is more like Max again in this way.  Both of them exhibit racism which is a stalwart of humour captivating the audience and having them laugh throughout the show, but no one is pulled up on the racism, sexism, and humiliation of a disabled person, or an actual individual in this show.  There is no point where the show depicts Bryan acknowledging, or anyone else acknowledging, that he is a racist, sexist, abusive person with an anger management problem and lacking in empathy, and that that is not a good thing.  For a play with a set-up of a moral engagement this is more insidious than an oversight.

So you see there is an important way of looking at theatre: there’s an analysis of the characters and what happens within the show, but there is also an analysis of the show as it includes its audience and what it is doing to the audience and why.  This latter analysis is in many ways the more important to look at, and includes the first as a subset really, especially for me in my role as the reviewer. 

A show often gets categorised into one of two main types of purpose. If the show is intended to educate and it does that job, that’s a success.  If the play is intended to entertain and it does that job, we also consider that a success.  But it’s not always so simple, of course.  Because educational shows usually require more effort on the part of the viewer to form opinions and so on, and to extend themselves; to come away from the show a greater person than they were before. I like shows like this and I find the process of learning and developing my understanding of the world a pleasure, so this entertains me. 

And shows that are more determined to provide just ‘pure’ entertainment are often an excellent vehicle to teach their audience something at the same time.  In this play, there is an educational aspect around prostate cancer awareness for example; the importance of early detection to be precise.  And many comedians will use their skills to edify their audiences as well as to make them laugh. 

A comedy tends to be more manipulative of its audience.  You are drawn in with the humour because it feels very good to laugh, and you relate to the character, and you also love the actor because the actor is making you laugh which feels good, and you want the actor to do well on stage.  So, you also laugh to encourage that actor.  And the payoff is that you get to laugh again, genuinely and hysterically.  In this state, you really are more open to being gently aligned with the values the practitioners have created.  You are carried along from mirth to mirth and your powers of discernment do get lulled into a state of acceptance in this way. 

Most theatre mixes this up.  As audience, we offer a ‘suspense of disbelief’ in the story because we want to participate in the work.  We know that Mark isn’t really masturbating naked with just the edge of the stage prohibiting our view of his now enlarged penis, but we go along with it imagining that is what he is doing, which makes for awkward viewing and embarrassed / hysterical laughing in the crowd (personally if I want to see a man masturbating I would ask for one, and it’s not what I go to the theatre for, but each to their own).

The point being, if you offer the show as a comedy, you take responsibility for your audience, and for where you take them. There is a lovely exchange here: the audience trust you to take them on a journey and they trust that you will take care of them and that they will be entertained and not damaged, and that they may even come out of the show a greater person. 

Now if I imagine this show being performed to an audience that had even one person with Asperger’s … Do you see? It would be devastating. The power of that trust dynamic with the audience is completely inverted. I know several people who have Asperger’s.  Their lives I assure you, are much more difficult than the protagonist in this story. I imagine they and anyone who loves them would find the treatment of that character very hurtful in a deeply felt way that would be very hard to put right.

What if the show were performed to members of the Indian community?  Would they experience it with the same sense of enjoyment?  Many members of the Indian community that I know are strongly family-oriented and respectful and more inclined to higher thinking than a preoccupation with sex.  Not very many Indians I know wobble their heads whenever they talk; it’s a mean stereotype.  And let’s think for a minute about them while we’re on the subject of morality and redemption: how many property developers get subjected to racial attacks and armed robberies while they’re at work, sometimes fatal, and likely to happen in their lifetime? 

What if some Chinese people watch this show, and the only mention of them is someone abusing them and saying they want to kill them and everyone cracking up and laughing as if they are familiar with this urge.  How would it feel to walk out into the foyer after the show as a Chinese person, and would anyone make eye contact with you? 

What if your spouse had attacked you with a Golf Club, and your child had witnessed the raging insane behaviour of that person before you called the police to order them not to come back on your property.  So, do you get back with this person?  Does someone who has experienced that enjoy this show?  Why is that bit funny? 

Mark Hadlow is a great performer but he doesn’t recognise or do anything about the serious matter of accountability in this show.  This show has been skilfully written, and it is well produced, but nobody has stopped this from touring and playing in different theatres around the country because of the disturbing human rights harassment issues prevalent in this work. 

Instead of coming out of this show feeling that they are a greater person for having seen it, the audience must instead be using the show to validate the great people they already think they are.  And that is a profound difference.

My despair is at the appalling complacency apparent with the huge number of people who have let this slide.  It’s bullying on a grand scale.

We have a problem in this country and we need, more than ever, great New Zealand stories to be told, to turn the tide in a culture that bullies as a status quo.  We have a suicide problem: children / adults; suicide seems to be a non-partisan issue.  It’s hard to know what we can do to change this problem in society.  We can hope to find better signs that show us that people are distressed, or isolated or ‘at risk’.  But it’s still hard to get tangible answers about what works. 

What I suggest is that we all start by looking at ourselves to see if we are a part of the problem.  I suggest that we request from each other accountability for thin stereotypes, harassment, bullying and racial profiling.

MAMIL, by Gregory Cooper, is a play about men who bully, but it is also a play that bullies.  I agree that Hadlow is a good performer, but the show badly derails in its determination to hit home a message of humility to its target audience.


Maryanne Cathro June 13th, 2017

Thanks Genevieve for calling this out. It's not a popular position to take, but it is n important one. 

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Enthralling and whiplash funny

Review by Kirsty van Rijk 03rd Nov 2015

I saw SNAG. And, Mark Hadlow starring aside, MAMIL (middle aged men in lycra) is not the same. It’s better. But first, the rough guide to the script, by Greg Cooper: Middle-aged failed property developer, Bryan Cook, his life in tatters around him, finds some relief, male confidantes and, eventually, redemption through cycling.

Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but this show has travelled and proved itself (read the many positive reviews) all over the country.  Although the audience for it is likely to be MAMILs and their other halves rather than wider ranging demographic.

Cooper’s script is tight and whiplash funny. The jokes lean to the familiar but that’s because they’re Kiwi jokes from (and for) Kiwi blokes. The script is current and references a number of recent financial events (greatly appreciated by this audience). Among Cooper’s range of characters is a talking penis and Italian tenor bicycle, both delightfully funny. However, the supporting human characters tend to the stereotypical: a Punjabi dairy owner, a louche Irishman, a venal South African business man.  However, this works, mostly because the play is about the familiar, the everydayness of the ups and downs of the protagonist. Sometimes stereotype can be used like clichés in writing, it can speed up a narrative, especially useful in comedy. The narrative gives us moments of poignancy alongside the comedy and never lags.  An hour and half show without an intermission has the audience enthralled. (We are warned in advance that toilet facilities should be used in advance as we won’t want to leave during the show.)

The multiple characters, all played by Hadlow, are each, if a little familiar, genuine. Hadlow breathes authenticity into them. We don’t need more character development, the recognisable characters are not paper cutouts but mates we’ve met. The differentiation between characters by accent helps us follow who Hadlow is but it is his physical acting that really brings them to life. He is most impressive when switching between five different characters while peddling his bicycle; the hilarious physical comedy of Wayne’s retired-grandfather-cylcling contrasts with the physically self-confident Hari to comedic effect.

Hadlow is aided by a great lighting and sound design, although the famous Spiegeltent (spiegel means mirror) reflects one of the lights back onto the audience, and I have to shield my eyes. I note this is an issue in a few other unlucky spots. The lighting smoothly transitions Hadlow from one character to another, which works especially well when there is fast paced dialogue between two characters, helping us follow the change.

As noted before, this show is designed for the MAMIL audience (found in Havelock North in abundance) and its wry humour and pithy observations about middle age find their perfect target audience here. We laugh, al lot. Hadlow, bravely attired in lycra, is clearly not going to make the Tour de France, but he is a Tour de Force.


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Indefatigable Hadlow entertains with total sincerity

Review by Lindsay Clark 31st Aug 2015

Topping the success of Mark Hadlow as a ‘sensitive new-aged guy’, in his earlier triumph as Lloyd Winwright in Australian playwright Tobsha Learner’s SNAG, should have been a solid challenge for Christchurch playwright Greg Cooper. As it is, MAMIL: Middle Aged Man in Lycra – an idea suggested by Hadlow’s experiencing a real life cycling group; a peloton – seems likely to fit both the middle-aged performer and a festival audience very comfortably.

It sets out to entertain through frank insights into the male psyche and its tricky physical consequences. Women have long smiled to themselves about some of these, but to have them enacted in full technicolour is often even funnier. Certainly the audience on opening night is happy and relaxed, the men perhaps in sympathy, the women because these things are never going to happen to them – well not in the same way.

Bryan Cook is a voracious property developer, running late for an important meeting when he collides with a male cyclist and fobs off all repercussions with the lordly gesture of a thousand dollars. When his business partner lets him down and liquidation follows, the same cyclist pops up as the official in charge. Bryan is not a happy lad. His wife and children leave, his stern German doctor confirms that he’s in bad shape and all in all the situation is grim. Enter the bicycle, a voiced character in its own right, and a band of fellows from whom Bryan will be gifted much advice as they peddle the hours away.

The liquidator/cyclist victim pops up there too, as well as an Indian, an Irishman and an elderly enthusiast who turns out (spoiler alert) to have been fleeced by one of those long ago developments. All of these are played by the indefatigable Hadlow. In addition he has several testing conversations with Big Ted, Bryan’s ‘bits’ and an out of body interlude with Tom Jones whose songs he treasures.  

Working from an elevated prow-shaped platform ( design initially by Ashley Holwell and for touring by Brian King and Graham Jacobsen), the solo actor shows again what he is made of, even before he gets into lycra. Vocally and physically he is complete control of the bevy of blokes and their attitudes. On top of that, he handles the personal enlightenment of Bryan with total sincerity. The famous brow and chin are not the likely stuff of a chameleon, but somehow share the same ability to reinvent the image they convey. 

With all this going for it, the performance still seems in need of an edit. The personal storyline, which gives the show its real significance, is in danger of being eclipsed by the virtuosity of multiple role changes and the humour they create. Then again most of us would rather laugh than ponder, so perhaps the balance is about right.


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Splendid verbal dexterity and comic versatility

Review by Terry MacTavish 03rd May 2015

Mark Hadlow, star of the touring one man show Mamil, is a national treasure gone international. Having forged his reputation as one of NZ’s funniest actors, he is now to be seen on YouTube hobnobbing with Prince Charles and Sir Peter, idolised by Hobbit fans the world over for his impressive portrayal of the Dwarf Dori.  Nor are they deluded: Hadlow is one fine actor who can create a magical rapport with an audience, even when abusing latecomers, and his performance in Mamil is a stunner, set to surpass his previous celebrated solo, SNAG

Hopefully the adoring fans will come in droves, although there will be no meticulously plaited grey hair and bulbous nose, because this is a play that is entertaining, yes, but given its true agenda, also vitally important for men to see. There’s even some illumination for women like me, made palatable by Hadlow’s undeniable craggy charm in the role of the middle aged man in lycra, Bryan Cook.

The Vagina Monologues notwithstanding, none of my female friends have yet admitted to having a conversation with their clitoris.  It does seem to be a male thing, regarding one’s most private body part as a separate identity, naming it, and even chatting with it.  

Writer Gregory Cooper has taken this curious habit and made it an integral feature of Mamil, allowing the deadly serious issue of prostate cancer to be approached with humour.  By playing Little Ted the penis as needy and pitiful rather than obnoxious, Hadlow succeeds in pulling it off – sorry, having felt during the play that the double entendres and puns were perhaps overused, I now realise they’re impossible to avoid.

Indeed at the beginning of the play we must describe Bryan Cook as a bit of a prick.  He has neglected his family and exploited others as a lazily corrupt property developer.  His attitude towards lycra-clad cyclists is contemptuous to say the least, even when he casually knocks one down!  Then comes the financial collapse of 2007: his partner betrays him, his business goes belly-up and his wife kicks him out.  Prompted by his terrifying German doctor, he is reduced to joining a men’s cycling group, where his redemption can begin.

Hadlow shows his splendid verbal dexterity and comic versatility in portraying not only Bryan and his appendage, Little Ted, but all four fellow cyclists.  Their candid appraisal of Bryan and their personal revelations both prod and support him on his journey.  Hadlow is actually not at all ludicrous in lycra – no cheap laughs there despite his admirable honesty in disrobing – but it is more than satisfying watching his journey from the bloke who sneers at cyclists to becoming one of them, and in the intimacy borne of common experience (and perhaps of not being face-to-face) sharing his vulnerability and saving his life. 

The supporting characters are necessarily extreme so as to be readily distinguishable, usually through a remarkable range of well executed accents, though Hadlow does work in some nice differences in cycling style, from the gammy knee to the look-no-hands approach.  My favourite character is actually the bicycle itself, a conceited Italian Pinarello with a penchant for singing stunning snatches of opera.  

The South African building partner is quite despicable: the true villain of the piece.  None are women: this is an exclusively male view of life.  (As Counterpoint opens Feminist Fridays this week, we have a fascinating opportunity to compare gender idiosyncrasies.) 

The set consists of a massive structure akin to the prow of a ship (a nod to Hadlow’s alternate career as a naval officer?) out of which pops (spoiler alert!) the beautiful bike from KiwiVelo.  Hadlow leaps valiantly all over this block, but it would still seem pretty restrictive were it not for the ingenious lighting, designed by Jane Hakaraia.  This is smoothly operated by Stephen Paul for the tour, along with a witty sound track (Hamish Oliver), including of course the ghastly effect of surgical gloves being pulled on.  The little bursts of Tom Jones are fun, and justified by Bryan’s penchant for the Welsh singer who even, delightfully, makes an appearance during Bryan’s operation. 

My guest is an extremely fit young man who stays that way partly by cycling everywhere, something that is manageable because Dunedin, though admittedly hillier than Hadlow’s Christchurch, is wisely divesting from fossil fuels (hurrah!) and investing in safer cycle ways.  Yet smashing though he looks in lycra, he recognises immediately the relevance of Mamil

For ultimately this is not a play about the Kiwi male’s fear of being seen in a revealing fabric, but the much greater fear of subjecting his cherished male appendage to the doctor’s scrutiny.

It must be done, lads, for the sake of the women and kids who love you despite your many imperfections.  Bravo to Mark Hadlow for braving the lycra to bring this to a nation’s attention.  If only he really were Tom Jones, so vital a cause would surely justify the panties hurled at the stage!


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Hadlow gets on his bike in must-see show

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Sep 2014

Twenty years ago Mark Hadlow toured extensively with his very successful one-person show SNAG – Sensitive New Age Guy

He now returns somewhat older with MAMIL – Middle Aged Man In Lycra, his new one-person show which could well be just as successful if not more so than SNAG. 

The middle aged man in MAMIL is Bryan Cook, yet he doesn’t actually appear in lycra until near the end, after we learn a lot about how he gets himself to be dragging on the lycra suit and getting on a bike as part of a peloton. 

His journey begins back in 2007 before the 2008 global financial crisis. Then once that hits Bryan’s life also hits a crisis or two and starts to come unstuck. His business goes belly up, he is shafted by his business partner, the wife storms of with the kids and he is left with nothing but a push bike.  This gets him into a men’s cycling group and things start to improve, but other issues arise making him look at life somewhat differently than he had in the past. 

In the role of Bryan Cook, Hadlow is superb. Twenty years on he has lost none of the spark, verve, and animation be brought to SNAG, bounding about what little space there is on the restricted set with great vitally and commanding engagement. 

He continually creates hilarious moments, one after the other, and his prostrate examination to the rising strains of Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries and his conversations with his penis are but two of the many highlights. 

But it is not just the character of Bryan Cook that he creates from Gregory Cooper’s wonderfully crafted script, but a host of other characters that Bryan interacts with including three from the peloton.  Instant vocal and posture changes bring these characters alive so that we almost believe there is more than one actor on stage. 

Yet there are also some very poignant moments about the plight of middle age men, in particular health issues that would have resonated with every male in the audience, young or old.  Funny yes, but through the script and the performance the reality of men coping with living in today’s world was all too real. 

And once the production gets rid of its strange, cumbersome raised platform – the set that impedes much of the action – and they find a better way to get the bike on, this production will be one of the highlights of the year. It is a must-see show, for men and women. 


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Cleverly crafted tour-de-force

Review by John Smythe 06th Sep 2014

First, a big welcome to Wellington’s new fairly flexible performance venue, Prefab Hall (also available for music gigs and private parties). Well-appointed technically, its flat floor does require an elevated stage and for this inaugural theatre production, a high triangular platform points arrow-like into the space. 

MAMIL: Middle Aged Man In Lycra starts with a radio commentary from ‘The Voice of Cycling’ himself (Phil Liggett) which turns out to be the imagined or actual the end of the story yet to come, of Bryan Cook’s fall from the intoxicating heights of property development and slow rise to some semblance of equilibrium and self-esteem.  

It is 2007 when we first see him in his BMW X5, venting road-rage at Lycra cyclers. Playwright /director Gregory Cooper and solo actor Mark Hadlow pull no punches in characterising Bryan’s lust for wealth, casual racism, predatory sexism (more in fantasy than reality) and preoccupation with matters penile. 

It very quickly becomes apparent that his relationship with his wife, Eadie, is dysfunctional and virtually non-existent with his son, Thomas, and daughter, Delilah. And when he knocks over a cyclist en-route to an 18-hole meeting, his defensive lack of compassion is borderline sociopathic. 

Yet somehow his goal-oriented drive and supreme self-confidence render Bryan unnervingly charismatic. Or is it just some primordial survival instinct that tells us to treat him like a mate because we wouldn’t want to be his enemy? Is so-called humanity really that facile? Probably. Yes.

Not that Bryan is top dog in his property developing profession. He in turn is in awe of his even more despicable business partner Max – whose South African accent adds (unfairly, of course) to his ghastliness – and the next deal on the table is with Mark Hotchin and Hanover Finance … Bryan is just one spoke in a complex network of inter-connected wheels of highly suspect fortunes.

But make no mistake: he is no ‘victim’; he is the author of his own misfortunes just as surely as the world’s ‘leading’ financiers are the creators of the Global Financial Crisis. Of course if he’d put his assets into a ‘trust’ or three, as Max has, he’d be surfing the proverbial wave that dumps on everyone else. Instead he is on the rocks and liquidated.

So begins Bryan’s rehabilitation into the relatively real world. Given the play’s title, it’s not a spoiler to reveal he takes to a bike and joins a men’s cycling group called The Peloton, presided over by Wayne, a bankrupted concreting contractor and also including James, an insolvency practitioner; Krishna, a joy-germ dairy owner from Papakura; and Seamus, a perpetually angry Irishman.  

Also characterised are Bryan’s German doctor, Hans, and Italian bicycle, Pinarello. Plus his penis, ‘Little Ted’, plaintive in his desire to grow … In no way prurient, it is a poignant relationship, touchingly rendered, which leads to an important message about more than one kind of self-examination.

Thanks to Hadlow’s seemingly effortless inhabiting of Bryan’s evolving ‘truth’, and his instant transitions to and from the other nine equally effortlessly manifested characters, I come away with vivid recollections of each person and place. His physicality – leaping up and down from the stage and prat-falling as well as the cycling – is also admirable. ‘Tour de force’ may be an overused accolade but given Bryan’s new goal is to complete the Tour de Waitakeres, it is entirely appropriate here.

The entry of the Pinarello, arising in a haze of smoke from beneath the stage, is a splendid effect and the countless sound-effects, impeccably timed – by operator / technician Stephen Paul – to synchronise with Hadlow’s actions, add to the production’s overall excellence.

Despite the initial ‘blokes jokes’ tone, Cooper’s script turns out to be cleverly and quite subtly crafted, with some good surprises stitched into its fabric as the story unfolds. In focusing on Bryan Cook’s story, the play critiques all the macho, testosterone-driven behaviour that still dominates the economic landscape. As such it is especially timely in the run-up to the elections.

It should not be assumed that MAMIL: Middle Aged Man In Lycra is ‘one for the boys’. Every woman I speak to afterwards has appreciated the insights into the male psyche and the behaviour it produces. And given the way it ends, has Bryan earned his redemption? The consensus is yes.

(A point of clarification: Many readers may remember Mark Hadlow’s equally bravura performance as 30-something advertising executive Lloyd Winwright in SNAG: Sensitive New Age Guy, which he toured extensively in the early 1990s. Much has been made of this in the publicity, implying that MAMIL is a sequel. But nowhere is it acknowledged that Australian playwright Tobsha Learner wrote SNAG, although Cooper does note he was 16 when he saw it in Christchurch.)


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Pearl, peccadillo or just too pervy?

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 26th Jul 2014

At nearly two hours long, Mark Hadlow is to be congratulated for this massive solo feat. He cycles, he sings opera, and he nimbly jumps between ten characters including Tom Jones, an Indian dairy owner and a South African property developer. So let me state up front that Hadlow’s talent and drive is unquestionable, as is the production quality of this show.   

Plus we are long overdue for a show that addresses men’s issues. Hadlow is the perfect guy to do this, and the production team deserve applause for mounting this show. There are some absolute pearls here. 

The play is too long, though. It’s a one-man feat that has legs if it’s whittled down to something more contained. There’s an audience for this middle-aged male drama, but some characters need to be discarded and the play streamlined. Like a road bike, it would be ten times stronger for this decisive efficiency.    

Despite moments of connection, I feel slightly confused after watching the many well-intentioned issues at work here: cancer, ethics, a marriage crisis, men’s health and mid-life changes. I really want to endorse the show and the central issue of testicular cancer that emerges. This needs a voice in an entertaining forum. With Hadlow’s immense talent and courage, however, I just want it to be simpler so that the central story emerges with clarity and ease.

The tagline says: “Ten Characters. One bike. All lycra.” I applaud the production team for mounting such a slickly-designed show, but my companion and I are at times challenged by the disparity between what this show sets up and what it delivers.   

The main narrative follows Bryan Cook, a “property developer who has accumulated a small fortune building leaking homes”. Inevitably for this modern-day Machiavellian, a mid-life crisis ensues (Global Financial Crisis, marriage collapse, health issues) and Bryan is drawn to cycling with other men as a way of redeeming his health and self-respect. Several characters propel this forward with intrigue and black humour. Many men will relate to the Bryan Cook situation and his wry observations. So far, so good. 

A few bumps in the road along the way that hamper Bryan’s quest of discovery. The deliberately un-pc character stereotypes seem to suggest that nothing is off-limits here, and that’s engaging. Hadlow is a consummate character performer. I’m initially drawn to the warm rapport that Hadlow sets up with the audience, but some of the humour starts to distance me. In parts it’s too clever and convoluted for its own good; too ‘blokey’, too many quotes from great leaders, too many puns, and too restrictive because of this. Despite the excellent production values, I begin to feel like this show is not for me.

I’m not easily shocked, but the conversations between Bryan and (Hadlow playing) his desperate, needy penis as a character are, for me, a step too far. This repulses many in the audience. I find it gratuitous and hard to watch, mainly because it plunges the comedy into another, almost pervy territory that is unwarranted and out of step with the rest of the piece. This is not what the show set itself up to be, and I think it would be stronger without this component. Call me old-fashioned, but when an urgent, child-like, worried penis appears on stage, empathy suddenly leaves the building. 

However, to quote one character, this (theatrical) ‘peccadillo’ or indiscretion perhaps overshadows the main point of the show. This leads me to think that Gregory Cooper has written two plays in one here and – possibly as the director, too – has not clarified the main story to the extent it demands. I acknowledge that multi-tasking is a necessity in this country when funding is scarce. It also needs to be said that this is the world premiere, and I’m certain the show will change and refine as it develops.   

The set is strong, and fits the needs of the notoriously demanding Herald Theatre well. Hadlow’s convincing vocal work is wonderful, and again, full marks to a top performer.

The play has wheels, but it needs cutting. I want it to be less like your pervy uncle, and more like your nice brother where the boundaries are clear, everything is open, and distress is absent. Support the show but go with an open mind.


Editor August 10th, 2014

Fear not, MR, "the conversations between Bryan and (Hadlow playing) his desperate, needy penis as a character" clearly suggests he is playing it as a character.

MR August 10th, 2014

Does he play his penis, as in "play with" or "pretend to be". I guess I want to clarify how much actual live penis is being shown onstage. I won't be shocked by someone playing a character of a penis, but really don't want to see a guy pull his willy out the bottom of the lycra bike shorts and start talking to it.

sarah jane July 27th, 2014

I saw this play on opening night and was completely captivated. The transition between characters vis voice and body is a pleasure to watch. Even the crazy little penis became a friend who you wanted to protect, like a cartoon character! And the business partner who screwed him over - I really hoped he would get his come-uppance! Mark Hadlow reminds us what a well trained professional actor can bring to an audience. It is a comedy worth seeing,especially if you know and love a middle aged man, and want a fun night of theatre at its best.

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