The Man on the Moor
A powerful new one-man show takes on the intriguing true-life story of a missing person who reappears in strange circumstances.
I love a good real-life story as theatre and you don’t have to go to Brighton Fringe for one this month because intriguing solo show The Man On The Moor is coming up at the Capitol in Horsham.
On December 2015 an elderly man was found dead on Saddleworth Moor. He was carrying no form of identification and train tickets in his pockets showed he’d travelled 200 miles, apparently just to die. You may have seen the documentary about this baffling case. Now The Man on the Moor takes the story further.
I spoke to the man behind the show – actor, director, former Absolute radio presenter and stand-up comedian Max Dickins.
What prompted the show? Did you see the TV documentary?
I came across this news story first on the BBC news website and I was absolutely hooked in. I started writng the new show about eight months before that documentary came up and we were slightly worried it would cook our goose in terms of story but the programme was a very factual account about the investigation.
How does your show approach the story?
The point of view of our story is someone whose father is missing. 250,000 people in the UK go missing each year. 95% come back within a week but for those who don’t, their loved ones are caught in a no man’s land. There’s no closure. Psychologists call it ‘ambiguous loss’.
Those left behind say it’s the not knowing that’s the worst. They go through a range of emotins like feeling guilty, angry, hurt… because it feels personal. It’s something that becomes an obsession for them.
Have you met any people going through such a loss?
Every time I’ve done the show people have come up to me afterwards and told me their own stories and I’ve been amazed how common this is. They’ve also said the show’s really authentic to them. One of the things we show is that it’s such a unique experience. The tragedy sets you apart from other people and makes you quite lonely. The way people interact with you is different.
I’ve done a lot of research to make the show as authentic as possible. I’m working with Missing People UK, the only missing persons charity and we’ve been collecting money at the end of performances. It’s not a worthy piece though, it’s more like a murder mystery in terms of the pace of the show.
Many people claimed the ‘man on the moor’ for their own lost relative…
40 different people came forward – they all looked at the police photo and saw a different person. It seems something about you is alert to certain meanings. I interviewed someone in Oxford whose dad had gone missing 20 years ago … he got in touch with the police when saw the moor man photo. I’ve seen a picture of his dad and the man on the moor was absolute the spit of him.
Our show is from the point of view that the man on the moor might be the lead character’s father who has been missing for some time.
What else have you learned from researching the show?
“It’s the hope that kills you,” everyone I speak to says. “It was so out of character,” is another thing you always hear. Maybe there’s no such thing as a character, maybe we don’t know the person we sleep next to as well as well think we do.
The man on the moor’s motive [behind his final journey] is still unknown and why he disappeared is still unknown. Is it really possible to really know the people we love? Sometimes we go back to see family at Christmas and are treated in a certain way and we think ‘that’s not who I am.”
Hear Max talk more about the show here:
The Man on the Moor is in the studio at The Capitol, Horsham on Fri 18 May. Tickets are £14. capitolhorsham.com