This piece of theatre was immediately compelling from the start. At first sight, we saw an innocent home video of a boy playing, projected onto a screen. In the background, sinister music played. Lined up in a semi-circle were five chairs, creatively utilised during the performance.
The Man On The Moor is based on the true story of an elderly man who was found dead on Saddleworth Moor on 12th December 2015. He'd travelled 200 miles by train, apparently just to die.
The rest of the show was based on a collection of other real life stories of people that had gone missing. The main character in the play was searching for his missing father and believed his father might have been the man on the moor. He regularly attended group counselling sessions where other people were suffering because a loved one had gone missing too
Written and performed by Max Dickins, this was a one man play delivered in direct address, where occasionally he played other characters. The script was brilliantly written, providing valuable insight into how family and friends are affected by the disappearance of someone they were close to. It analysed and explored the subject from multiple perspectives, challenging how people outside of the situation talk to the bereaved. That person could be grieving for someone who is still alive; it's the ambiguity of the circumstance that is the most difficult thing to grasp. The mother in the play kept herself busy and bottled up her feelings, in a metaphorical sense, "pulled a tarpaulin over a volcano".
There was an interesting scene, where Dickins interacted with pre-recorded footage, presenting the character of the mum telling him to stop exhausting himself looking for his father. The film was inovatively conceived, with regular straight cuts to extreme close up shots of the mum desperately pouring her heart out to her son. It was like a broken and cluttered portrait. The artisan coffee loving Colin, the brother of the main character, provided some moments of humour. Although, upon reflection I can't help but feel that he was a little forced into the story for the purpose of comic relief. The rhetorical questions, regularly asked to the audience, were effectively thought provoking.
At the end, statistics and figures about missing people were revealed to the audience on the screen. This was appropriately informative, however because we were watching live theatre, I thought the reveal of these statistics on screen felt a little odd. The eerie lighting design complimented the performance nicely, especially when Dickins' character was on top of the moor and we could see a melded wash of green and blue lighting onstage.
To sum up, the play was informative, compelling, and implicitly creepy.
Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 16/6/18