People growing up in cities will never fully appreciate the quirks and nuances that come from spending your childhood in small towns. The Land of Lost Content by Henry Madd, currently playing at Pleasance Courtyard this Edinburgh Fringe, captures in stunning detail the effect rural living can have on formative years.
“It’s easier telling other people’s stories than my own,” says Henry (played by Madd) but of course, when the population of a town is smaller than an average London tower block, everyone’s stories are interconnected. As Henry and childhood friends come back together for a reunion, the warm feeling of home is soon replaced with memories of a hedonistic youth.
Madd’s play is a two hander, with Henry and Jake (Marco Titus) giving us the main thrust of the story, but they also portray multiple other characters who inhabit the town of Ludlow. Like most small communities, it is the pub – The Flat Earth Inn – that serves as a back drop to the reminiscing, and locals and tourists alike play a part in this story.
The non-linear story jumps back and forth through a group of friends journey into adolescence. As the boredom of small town living starts to set in, the young teens turn to drink and drugs. Looking back they say it was a war that they didn’t know they were fighting, and the onset of puberty brings a whole other set of problems.
Madd’s writing is deeply poetic, and it’s very beautiful to listen to the storytelling unfold. Madd and Titus work well as a pair, and the lyrical acrobatics they perform accentuate the fluid timelines to keep the audience gripped. A haunting soundscape accompanies the entire production and helps us to imagine we’re dipping in and out of Henry’s memories.
Director, Nic Connaughton, expertly navigates the pair through this exploration of adolescence, that picks up on themes of mental health, domestic and sexual assault.
Madd’s tremendous storytelling ability captures the impetuousness of youth, and while the chapters of this tale come at us like fragmented memories, we’re never left in any doubt what the story is trying to say.
The Land of Lost Content is a poignant story of a childhood that has been heavily influenced by what is often perceived as the perfect idyll of home. Lyrical and captivating storytelling combined with passionate performances from Madd and Titus make this an exhilarating watch.