The Man on the Moor

The tricky thing with a show like The Man On The Moor is balancing the personal, fictional story being told with the larger, true-life event it is connected to. The play traces one man’s search for answers after his long-missing father turns up dead. The event is real – a mysterious, unidentified corpse discovered without apparent cause of death in 2015 on a moor in Northern England – but Max Dickins’ play runs in fictional tangent to the events of the real world. This is the show’s greatest strength – the grace and subtlety with which he blends the real and the invented into something richer; a thought-provoking story with a meaningful purpose.

The Man On The Moor is a somber but exciting exploration on what it means to be lost.

Much of the show rides on the strength of its creator. Dickins acts as both writer and performer, succeeding admirably in both, and gives his script the restrained emotionality it needs. His performance throughout is measured and confident, and though he could do to find a bit more range within his narration, his portrayals of the various minor characters he interacts with are excellent. Too often in one-person shows these smaller roles take on a one-dimensional, pantomimic quality; Dickins gives them the attention and subtlety they require, elevating the show substantially. It feels like a deeply mature piece of storytelling.

What makes The Man On The Moor work is how instantly it grips the audience with its premise. There’s something instinctive in us that makes unexplained deaths both deeply interesting and unsettling. The Man On The Moor plays on this instinct wonderfully in the first half of the play, as CCTV images, self-portraits, and details of a doomed man’s journey are drip-fed in tantalising succession. The script twists and turns with satisfying thematic punch, but by the end of the play the story has transformed into something quite different from what one might have expected in the first ten minutes. Dickins makes an admirable appeal for increased awareness of missing persons, and greater sympathy for those whom it affects, but it doesn’t end as interestingly as it began. That’s not to say it fails to deliver, merely that the instinctive attraction to the mysterious isn’t satiated.

The Man On The Moor is a somber but exciting exploration on what it means to be lost. A strong performance ties together the tricky elements of the script into something that makes you think, makes you feel, makes you want to find the answers. 

Reviews by Jared Liebmiller

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The Blurb

On 12th December 2015, the body of a man was found dead on Saddleworth Moor. Train tickets showed he'd travelled 200 miles from south-west London, apparently just to die. Despite a national media campaign, he remained unidentified. This is the story of what happened next. Written and performed by Max Dickins of last year's critical smash-hit The Trunk, this one-man play looks at how people come to disappear and the impact on those they leave behind. 'A beautifully crafted story... told with subtlety and compassion through all its twists and turns' **** (Scotsman).