Mark Wright plays Ron Hewlett, a middle-aged man who loses his call centre job and finds himself facing foreclosure on his home. When Ron hears a radio station is offering a million dollars to anyone who successfully streaks at the Super Rugby final he initially dismisses the idea; but as financial and familial pressure mounts, Ron must decide how far he’s willing to go.
Perhaps best known for his role in the Oddfellows TV commercials, decades of television work (from the Billy T James Show to the recent reboot of Terry Tio) and numerous theatrical productions around the country; The Streaker is Wright’s debut production at The Court. Wright returned to the stage last year in an Auckland production of 8GB of Hard-core Pornography – which courted controversy when the director cut a nude scene from the end of the play, invoking the writer’s ire. Wright is not expecting Hadlow to be as coy.
|Mark Wright as the original Oddfellow|
The Streaker’s cast includes Vanessa Wells as Ron’s wife, Linda; Chelsea McEwan-Millar as his daughter, Eva; Lynn Waldergrave and Associate of The Court Theatre Geoffrey Heath as Ron’s live-in parents, Bill and Llana; and Jared Corbin as Ron’s friend Murray, who somewhat overly-enthusiastically encourages Ron to streak. The play also includes “radio” segments featuring well-known radio personalities Simon Barnett, Gary McCormick, Lana Searle and Jason Gunn. “I called in a few favours,” says Hadlow.While Hadlow acknowledges that a play titled The Streaker has certain expectations, “the play isn’t just about streaking. There are deeper issues, which are pretty reflective of our society… Ron is a vulnerable man at a mid-life crisis point in his life, and it needs a pretty special actor to capture the ‘man down on his luck’ style that Mark is giving him.”
When considering concepts for his next play, playwright Gregory Cooper was inspired by a friend’s story of a straight-laced relative who was egged on to streak at a cricket match and was absolutely mortified afterwards. “The story of someone sensible doing something very un-sensible appealed.” As he wrote, Cooper found that “nearly all of the characters were in some way trapped by society and sensibility… doing things they thought they had to do and not what they wanted to do.”
Hadlow is a frequent collaborator with Cooper. Hadlow starred in a hugely successful national tour of MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra) written by Cooper that was staged at The Court last year as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival. This year Cooper wrote two scripts for a national tour celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy: Hadlow directed both productions, with Cooper performing in one of the shows.
“Having just come from directing two other Greg Coopers I feel a bit like I’m in a Groundhog Day scenario: I eat, sleep, work and talk Greg Cooper constantly,” says Hadlow. “For anyone to put down on a page words that formulate themselves into a play and that are funny and have such resonance and make a statement about us as Kiwis is clever; to do it with constant regularity and meaningful content, like Greg does… He’s a bloody genius and a magician.”
With eight separate productions of his work staged around New Zealand and Australia in the past twelve months and another production of The Streaker scheduled at Centrepoint theatre later this year, Cooper is streaking ahead as one of New Zealand’s most prolific playwrights.
The Streaker debuts at The Court Theatre on 17 September and runs until 22 October. Audiences with issues around nudity are advised to avert their eyes or simply grin and bare it.