Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh
The Man on the Moor is a monologue, written and performed by Max Dickins. And it’s really very good indeed. Inspired by the true story of an unidentified body found on Saddleworth Moor in 2015, it examines the idea of what it means to ‘go missing’ – and the impact a disappearance has on those who are left behind.
Dickins plays a man whose life has been profoundly affected by his father’s disappearance more than twenty years ago. He sees his father everywhere and, when he reads in the news about the body, he becomes absolutely convinced that the mystery body on the moor is, in fact, his dad. This belief quickly builds into an obsession.
It’s beautifully written – every word carefully weighted, the rhythm perfectly honed. And it’s performed well too: Dickins’ acting is at once compelling and understated. It’s a serious subject, emotionally charged. There are teary moments, and there is dread. But there is also humour, a mix of light and shade to leaven the atmosphere. The piece is nicely judged, and holds the audience’s attention throughout, no mean feat considering the unholy racket bleeding in from the corridor outside.
It’s sobering to be told that someone goes missing in Britain every eight minutes – and that every year, two thousand people disappear and never return. Shows such as this demonstrate the important role theatre can play in illuminating the pain and heartache of dealing with such loss, and maybe go some way towards encouraging people to actually try to make a difference, not least by raising awareness and collecting money for The Missing People charity (missingpeople.org.uk). A worthwhile project, and an engaging production.