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Career

Mark Hadlow and Shorty Street's Alison Quigan: 'Our friendship spans four decades'

Chatting about their new play, Sir Roger Hall's Winding Up, the pair can't believe they're still treading the boards four decades on!

By Kelly Bertrand
The year was 1978 – Boney M's Rivers of Babylon was top of the charts, weightlifter Precious McKenzie claimed his first gold medal at the Edmonton Commonwealth Games, and the average New Zealand house cost just $24,514.
It was also the year Kiwi acting royalty Mark Hadlow and Alison Quigan first met − and more than 40 years later, their bond has never been stronger.
Chatting to the Weekly in between rehearsals for their new play, Sir Roger Hall's Winding Up, the pair can't believe how much has changed since then, or the fact they're still treading the boards together four decades on!
"You know, we know each other so well – we really care about each other," Mark nods.
"But this is actually only the third time we've acted together! We see each other all the time, and compare notes and criticise each other regularly," he laughs.
"No, we don't. We didn't even do that at drama school."
They're a class act! Alison and Mark met back at drama school in 1978.
It was on the very first day of Theatre Corporate's first-ever student intake that the pair met.
"I sort of remember the moment we met," Mark says thoughtfully.
"Do you?!" Alison replies, before laughing, "I've forgotten most of it."
"Yeah, there was a warm-up, we were all feeling a bit self-conscious… and then for some reason the boys and the girls were split up! That was quite sexist, upon reflection…"
"I remember POETS day," Alison says.
"Frank Whitten, who was one of our tutors, had heard about this thing called POETS Day – P* Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday − so we had to go all around Auckland researching it one Friday... and devise a show around it!"
Ever since, despite their lack of screen and stage time together, the pair have been great mates and watched each other's careers soar.
Alison's passions took her down the path of directing – she ran her own theatre company, Centrepoint, in Palmerston North for 18 years – and, of course, she won the hearts of the nation playing good-natured Shortland Street receptionist Yvonne Jeffries, a role she's still recognised for.
"Oh, every day!" she exclaims.
"Every. Single. Day. And it's quite funny, I work in an arts centre in South Auckland, and at lunchtime I'll cover the reception desk. People walk in, see me and go, 'Hang on a minute… wait, what?' It's great."
Mark, meanwhile, found success in all mediums, including home-grown TV such as The Billy T James Show and Willy Nilly, as well as his role as Dori in the three Hobbit films and Sir Peter Jackson's Mortal Engines.
"But actually, people tend to recognise me from my theatre more than the movies – I mean, I was covered in hair for all of the Hobbit films," he says. "I do a one-man show called MAMIL – Middle Aged Man In Lycra – so people know me from that."
Mark appeared in the popular Hobbit series of films by Sir Peter Jackson.
Both Alison and Mark are thrilled to be reunited for Winding Up – a play that deals with some of the lighter sides of the golden years, as well as the inevitability of death.
Playwright Roger revisits the characters of Barry and Gen from his previous work Conjugal Rites; the married duo are now in their 70s and dealing with all that goes on in life's autumn period.
Says Alison, "One of the things Roger's done over the years is shine a light on ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances. He changed the face of theatre with plays like Middle-Age Spread. One of the first plays I saw of his was Glide Time – it was like he came into the office I was working in at the time, because it was so real and funny."
"It was made into a television series," Mark adds.
"Which is what should be happening today, but it's all reality television. It's this huge absorbing thing for a younger audience, it's cheap c**p. It's a bit of a demon, I think; it's eating up a whole raft of entertainment that it shouldn't be."
"And it's not reality, by the way!" Alison interjects.
Alison is most recognised from Shortland Street.
For the dynamic duo, their true passion lies in telling the stories of New Zealanders – and doing it together is an added bonus they're relishing.
"We can hit the ground running," Mark says.
"Meeting at drama school in 1978 gave us a certain level – we know each other so well. We can reciprocate like that, the intricacies of how we work."
He's right – for our entire conversation, the pair are so at ease that they finish each other's sentences.
"I guess we do!" Alison laughs.
"It comes back to faith and trust. We really care about each other... we're so familiar."
Adds Mark, "We're very lucky. One of the best things about Alison, and if I can include myself in that [too], is that there's always more to learn from each other, and every time we come back together, it's exciting.
"I feel so privileged to be back here doing this with her."
Alison and Mark star in Auckland Theatre Company's season of Winding Up, a new play by Sir Roger Hall, premiering in Auckland at ASB Waterfront Theatre on February 11 and touring the North Island to Hastings, New Plymouth, Tauranga and Hamilton in March. See atc.co.nz.

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