Henry Madd on the Land of Lost Content

Photo: Raphael Klatzko

Land of Lost Content is an empowering story about friendship, adolescence, and life not going to plan. It’s the debut play by poet Henry Madd, directed by Nic Connaughton and Lauren Lambert Moore and stars Madd alongside Marc Benga.

It follows Henry and Jake who have grown up with their mates in a quiet country town called Dulowl. A town where they forged friendships in 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 behind. It’s a compassionate, funny and deeply moving take on life in a small town.

We caught up with Madd to talk about the play’s real-life inspiration.

Q&A with Henry Madd

What can you tell us about your play, Land of Lost Content?

It’s intense. But in a good way, I hope. Two friends meet in a pub and introduce the audience to their hometown via the locals they encounter and the memories this meeting triggers. It’s bursting with 2000s nostalgia, heartache of the platonic and romantic variety and plenty of laughs.

It highlights issues facing young people in small/ rural towns, forgivingly remembering the hurdles of adolescence and how wrong it can all go.

What was it like to develop a play based on your own experiences?

I’m not very imaginative so I didn’t have much choice. I think everyone thinks they’re lives are normal until they encounter people from other places and realise ‘oh hang on maybe that wasn’t ok’. That’s what happened with me anyway.

On one hand, when I first moved away from home, I realised how lucky I’d been to grow up in a rural part of the country. On the other, I realised that many of the things that had happened to my friends, and I should never have happened. These problems weren’t necessarily rural specific, but they were unspoken about in these areas. This really made me want to shout about them.

Autobiographical work is always tricky. I’ve been careful to protect people’s identities, and no one character is based off one real person, but you still feel a duty of care to talk about them safely. I’ve had to keep an eye on my own health as well as the process has involved a lot of stewing on uncomfortable memories.

Was it daunting to perform such personal work yourself?

After the writing, editing, and rehearsal process I’ve been able to gain a bit of objectivity about the story which helps to distance my actual self from the version of me in the show. That said, in 2022 we performed a version of the show at the small fringe festival in my hometown. That was terrifying. More than London or Edinburgh. I was performing a show about people who were in the audience. I genuinely thought I might be run out of town; however, the response was right powerfully positive. It was like the town was giving me the green light to go into the world and tell their story.

How does it feel to be taking the play on tour following your Edinburgh success?

Edinburgh was incredible, but it knocked me on my inexperienced bum. It’s been great to have a break but now I’m ready to get back out there and finish telling the story.

Is there anything you hope audiences take away from the show?

It would make me happy if the show encouraged people to maybe reach out to that friend they’ve not spoken to in ages. We make so many mistakes growing up, the kind you lie in bed reflecting on at 3am for the rest of your life. I hope the show helps ease some of those anxieties by reminding people that we’ve all been there. Oh, and litter, always take away your litter.

The show will begin its tour in London at the Arcola Theatre from 27 February to 2 March. It then visits Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury, Norwich, Guildford, Oxford, Bristol, Leeds, Hereford, Birmingham, Bradford, York, and Falmouth.