The Land of Lost Content

The end of show speech to an audience. Do you plan it? Or do you just deliver it like Henry Madd does; gentle, loveable, endearing words shaped by earnest conviction. The 28-year-old poet and performer speaks just as charmingly in a brief post-show chat. So why does his voice grate on me throughout his performance?

The words come at us like a machine gun

Madd is here to take the step from award-winning poet to playwright. He comes from the small Shropshire town of Dulowl and wants to recount his small town early life. From two actors (Madd himself and Marcos Titos), The Land of Lost Content charts these origins, focusing on a time when Madd tries to jump in the river but is dragged back at the critical moment by a friend. I come from a small town background too. I should be glued to every word, but I’m not. Why?

Part of the answer is ‘Blue Remembered Hills’. The term is used evocatively to describe the romantic Shropshire Hills lying in the Welsh Marshes and covering perhaps a quarter of southwest Shropshire. It is one of the first powerful terms we hear in the play. But these are not Madd’s words. They are from A. E. Housman’s poem ‘A Shropshire Lad’ and are used again by Denis Potter in his 1979 television play. This borrowing of terms for impact continues throughout the play; “a spoonful of sugar”, “keep calm and carry on”, “we support our local pubs”, “hey, big spenders”, “I’m king of the world”. How can we hear a new, little voice amidst this anthology of reference points?

When we do hear Madd’s voice, must it be so aggressive? The words come at us like a machine gun, rattling off people, places, and events until we drown in it all. This is chronology, not empathy. We are bedevilled by detail. When Dylan Thomas speaks of small town life in Under Milk Wood he reveals inner voices and dreams. Where are those here? The actors’ performances are very aggressive for an intimate, 60 seat theatre. They shout and leer at us as we cower in our seats. “Let’s go fucking mental”, they jeer. “Let’s go fucking mental. La la la la”. In my small town, when I saw lads like this I abandoned my pint and fled.

Madd has loyal friends and I can see why. Nic Connaughton, Head of Theatre at Pleasance, has carefully nurtured him for two years now, which Madd clearly appreciates. Connaughton directs this production deftly; building props into the set carpet is a lovely touch. Madd has also (rightly) been supported by the Marlowe Theatre. He does have an authentic voice and I would be interested to hear it, reference free and stripped back. More heart, less mouth. At times, there are lyrical rhythms and natty rhymes. But I want to hear these build stories, like when he answered the door to a herd of cows. Which river? Why did he go there? Why did he nearly jump in? Small town depression? His own sexuality? Its impact on his best-mateship? Or was he just going for a swim? There is certainly something here to be explored. Poeticise these stories and put them front and centre instead of this blustering laddishness.

Twice Madd says, “I always find it easier telling other people’s stories than my own”. To my mind, that is because telling your own story requires courage, revelation of vulnerability, and honesty. Qualities I think his true voice may have.

Visit Show Website

Reviews by Ben Ludlow

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

We Are, in Fact, the Problem

theSpace @ Niddry St

Twelfth Night

Paradise in Augustines

The Sorcerer

theSpace @ Niddry St

Tom Brown's Schooldays

Paradise in Augustines

The Pirates of Penzance

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

The Father


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Henry and Jake grew up with their mates in a quiet country town called Dulowl. A town where friendships were forged in failed adventures, bad habits and damp raves as they stumbled through adolescence looking for something to do. Then Henry moved away. Now he's back, but there's no enjoying a welcome-home-pint without facing up to the memories he left. Welcome to a town where worlds are turned upside down, yet nothing seems to change. A funny and deeply moving coming-of-age story, told through a blend of spoken word and theatre.

Most Popular See More

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £35.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets