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Land of Lost Content | An Interview with Henry Maddicott


Chloé Eathorne

Thursday, 2 May 2024

Arts Editor Chloé Eathorne speaks with Henry Maddicott for The Falmouth Anchor to discuss his
autobiographical play Land of Lost Content.

Land of Lost Content | An Interview with Henry Maddicott

Arts Editor Chloé Eathorne speaks with Henry Maddicott for The Falmouth Anchor to discuss his

autobiographical play Land of Lost Content. The play is an empowering coming-of-age story told through a

blend of rich spoken word poetry and traditional theatre. The story focuses on the trials of growing up in a

small country town, and its ongoing effects on two estranged mates. We learn more about the highly

praised UK tour ahead of the upcoming performance at The Poly on Friday the 3rd of May.

Can you tell me about your journey as a writer/performer, and how your passion first began?

I used to hate writing completely at school and college. I was never a bedroom teenage writer; writing was

like punishment or homework. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties, when I was working in a bar, that a

local writer's group had booked out the bar in the daytime to run a workshop. Because there wasn't anything to do, the person running it was like ‘why don't you come and join us’ and then I sat down and had the most amazing two hours with them. I didn't know writing could be creative in this way, and that was one of those big sliding doors moments. Then I went to university to study drama and forgot about writing for a bit, and after graduating, I found my way back into it, falling into writing and exploring spoken word. Poetry was on the rise, and it was a good way after graduating to get free drinks and earn the odd 20 quid to do a set. I started doing that more and more and then the more I realised I was writing about certain issues that I wanted to explore more, which led me back to theatre again.

When did you first discover the power of words?

Such a good question. I feel like it has come in different stages throughout life. As a kid I was quite shy and a big bookworm. As a child words were a real safe space, I would proper hide in fantasy books, and then became a teenager and started getting into like slightly less ideal habits, which the show explores, and it wasn't till until like later that I and rediscover them as a healing power. So, I don't think there was one moment where I suddenly realised the power of words. It's always been there with me but it's come and gone throughout life.

As a spoken word poet and performer what influence did that have on your path to theatre?

I studied drama and theatre at university and always wanted to go down that route. I then fell into writing

poetry most by accident, and then that kind of took over as my new infatuation, my new love that I was obsessed with. I found myself writing about home a lot and where I grew up more and more until I realised I had this collection of work, that if I put one piece there and one piece there that's kind of like a beginning middle and end, and then suddenly it's like a play. It's also helped me with writing a lot of for kids as poetry and children's theatre works really well. I've also written a few children's shows as well. So, I've found my niche, it's like a very niche niche, but one that not a huge amount of people are occupying, so I've moved into it.

‘Land of Lost Content’ is an autobiographical play, which you’ve described “frustrated love letter to

your hometown”- when did the idea for the play first emerge and what was your inspiration behind

the title?

After I moved away from my hometown, we would be telling stories sat around the table as everyone tried

to make friends, I would be telling stories about my hometown. A lot of people had similar stories, like recalling the first time getting drunk as teenagers and stuff. But I found after some of the stories I would say people would be staring at me like that's not normal – either for good reasons, like ‘that sounds really cool’, or bad reasons like, ‘come on, did you not have anything better to do’. So, I noticed that this experience I had on the one hand was universal but also had a unique twist that was very much embedded in growing up in a small rural town.

The title of the play comes from a poem by this brilliant poet called A.E. Housman who wrote a collection

called ‘A Shropshire lad’. Shropshire was the county I grew up in, and the title is a line from one of his

poems which features in the show.

Could you describe your creative process, do you stick to a regular writing schedule or more

sporadically, when inspiration hits?

You want to be able to say no just I'm constantly getting waves of inspiration, and sometimes that does happen and its lovely, but when I started writing it was much more like ‘oh I won't write anything and wait for the inspiration to strike at like 3 in the morning like I'm a genius’ unfortunately that really doesn't happen enough to make a living off, so a lot of it is just sitting down. If I've got a project or deadline or commission, you just have to sit there until it gets done.

How do you get ready and prepare yourself to perform on stage- do you have a go to pre-performance


Yes, me and Marc Benga the other actor, will do about an hour's worth of physical and vocal warmups. We’ll also then spend about 20 minutes playing games together, whether that's running around the stage playing tig or getting a paper ball and do keepy-uppy's in the air, just something that brings us into each other's world and pay attention to each other. I've also got really addicted to the Mojo Ginger Shots, which is like my pre-performance ‘I can't go on stage without my ginger shot!’ I don't know who I've become or who I think I am (laughs) but it's just been the boost that gets me through the next hour. I've become immune to them, starting to go on to the big bottle.

I read a quote which really resonated with me as someone who grew up in a very working-class rural

part of Cornwall, which is often monopolized by this image of a postcard-pretty tourist destination

with the darker realities of the county erased. The quote was the ‘Land of Lost Content’ “champions

rural voices, it demands that people pay attention to the darker side to life in a small town whilst

celebrating the beauty of it." Your play is coming up at The Poly in Falmouth on the 3rd of May, what

can people expect?

It’s a two person show told through a rich blend of spoken word poetry and traditional theatre storytelling

techniques. The premise follows the character Henry - I wasn't imaginative enough to think of another

name, who comes back to his hometown and has a welcome back drink with a friend. Over the course of

an hour they reminisce, boast and try to outdo each other. It’s full of 2000’s nostalgia, as they tiptoe and

dance around the issues which they really need to face and are trying to avoid, which all come through at

the end. It’s energetic, there's lots of bad dancing, there's a bear that owns a pub. It’s a good laugh, but it's

also a bit of a tearjerker as well.

The show touches on themes of mental health and substance abuse. What do you think is the biggest

challenge facing young people and their mental well-being today?

It’s a mixture, like you said, you’ve grown up in Cornwall, a place that's similar, whenever you tell someone

where you’re from people say, ‘it's so beautiful there- it must be so lovely’ and then when you live there you realise actually there's a massive divide in wealth. There's a real lack of services and funding, because of this perceived wealth and the fact that rural places tend to just get forgotten about. I think one of the big issues is that these places do get forgotten about, they’re not represented in the media, they are always played out as stereotypes, whenever you get a rural character, they’re always like a murder detective or country bumpkin. So, that is an issue in itself. But affecting young people particularly, I think there's a lack of youth services providing an alternative, I'm not saying that after school clubs are going to fix substance abuse, but they at least provide something else to do. There's a lack of services to spot problems, along with a closed off culture in small communities, not wanting to talk about things because everyone knows everyone else's business, so if you want to come out and say I'm going through a bad time and need help, everyone will know about it and it can be quite hard to have privacy.

Who are your creative inspirations?

The writer Jezz Butterworth has been a huge inspiration. When I saw Jerusalem, which is his rural play, it was the first time I felt like I was seeing a representation of what I'd experienced growing up, on a stage. People like Shane Meadows who wrote This Is England, telling these real working class and real stories, and poets like Kae Tempest and musicians like Dizraeli, people are really creative in their storytelling and really transport you, who are really authentic and honest.

In what ways do you think theatre and playwriting can contribute to important conversations or

social change and what messages would you like people to take from your play ‘Land of Lost


The first question is huge. I think that's the role of theatre really, to hold a mirror to society, that's what they say, ‘art should be holding up a mirror to society’. And that’s why I wanted to tell this authentic rural story, because in this mirror small towns get left out a bit. I think theatre even going back to ancient Greek times, always been a way of expressing the voice of the people against societal, political powers and changes. It’s inseparable I think, even if it's something that doesn't have a clear political message, it’s still providing people with a break and a rest from the system that were stuck in of like work and grind and hustle. The show is quite forgiving, it looks back at this difficult part in our lives - adolescence, which often gets overlooked or dismissed. I really hope if people come and see it, the message I hope people will come away with is that it will encourage them to forgive their younger selves a little bit. Like yeah it was messy, we were going through a difficult time, and all made mistakes and got things horribly wrong, but that's okay, we were all in it together.

Your show has won multiple awards, from ‘Theatre Weekly’s award for Best Ensemble Cast’, ‘The Stage’s Top 10 Theatre Shows of The Fringe’ and was included in The Guardian’s round up of favourite shows of the year. What have been the highs and lows of touring ‘Land of Lost Content’, have there been any particularly memorable moments?

I’ve wanted to tour this show for years, before I started writing it, I wanted to tour it. The idea of getting to tell this story of me and my mates growing up in our small little town that most people haven't heard of, and getting to take that around the country and for it to be received well, for people to be like “thank you for saying this, that really meant a lot, it's so rare to see these stories being told in this sort of way”, I think that has been the ultimate highlight.

I will say it has been a massive learning experience. It’s been stressful, I've experienced such anxiety because I'm in it, I wrote it, it's about my life, (laughs) it's my fault for trying to do so much. I’m always there doing admin and checking ticket sales, plugging and promoting. I will be really sad when it ends, but I'm also quite tired. I think that it’s also good to acknowledge that even when you’re doing something that's achieving your dreams, it’s still okay to have a hard time whilst you're doing it. There's this pressure to be like I can't complain because I'm doing the thing I always wanted to do, but you're allowed to acknowledge that reality is sometimes different to what you imagine it to be.

What does the future hold for ‘Land of Lost Content’ and any upcoming projects?

There's been some interest in doing a rural tour in The West Midlands, Cornwall, Dorset, possibly the North as well in autumn and maybe spring. And just continuing to write poems and trying to think of the next project. I’ve been working on this project for a few years now, so it’s like okay, I better come up with a second idea now which is daunting, but quite exciting.

Finally, what's the best way for people to follow you and support your work?

I’ve got a website which is or on Instagram @henrymaddpoet, that's where I do the most updates.

For tickets for the performance of Land of Lost Content at the Poly, visit:

Listen to the full interview on Mixcloud:

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