A HIGHLY-acclaimed one-man play based on a true story is heading to West Yorkshire.

Fresh from his hugely successful run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, writer and performer Max Dickins is bringing The Man On The Moor to Halifax’s Square Chapel as part of a national tour.

On December 12 2015, the body of an elderly-looking man was discovered beside a path on Saddleworth Moor in the Peak District. He was lying on his back, arms across his chest like, facing downhill.

The man was carrying no identification: no phone, wallet, cards, driving licence or keys. In his pockets was £130 in cash and train tickets: Ealing Broadway to London Euston, and a return ticket from Euston to Manchester.

The police checked the body against the National Criminal Intelligence and Missing Persons databases, finding no match. Despite a national media campaign, no one came forward with any information about the identity of the man. He seemed to have no name, no home, no family, and no friends; apart from his body, there was no evidence that he existed at all.

Three questions abounded: who was this man? Why did he travel 200 miles to die on Saddleworth Moor, and, how can this possibly happen in the modern world?

In The Man On The Moor, Max explores the story from the perspective of those searching for missing loved ones.

Born and bred in London, the playwright has connections to Yorkshire having been a student at the University of Leeds.

He began his career as a radio presenter for Absolute Radio before breaking onto the stand-up comedy circuit. His first book, My Groupon Adventure, was published in 2016. The Man on the Moor is his second play.

“I’ve done various bits of acting and TV presenting too,” he says. “I’ve had a varied career, but one of my favourite things to do is travel the country and share my work with new audiences. I am looking forward to returning to Yorkshire to perform my show.”

He adds: “When I first came across the case I was gripped by it. The mystery seemed so intriguing and strange. I read as much as I could about it, but it wasn’t until I came across one particular fact that I was inspired to write a show: I read that, when the police went public with their appeal, more than 40 people came forward claiming the person as their own missing loved one.

“They were all looking at the same facts and seeing a different person. It was at this point that I realised that the show was about something broader than just a fascinating mystery. It was about one central question: is it every really possible to know someone properly? Or are we all just deluding ourselves?”

In the play Max portrays a man looking for his own missing father, mirroring the real-life case of the son of Hugh Toner. In January 2016 Toner’s son approached the police believing that the description of the man on the moor matched that of his father, who vanished from a hospital in Northern Ireland in 1994. DNA evidence eventually ruled out a link.

Max did a huge amount of research to make this play as authentic as possible. “As I was portraying such a sensitive issue it was important that it was accurate. I have been touched by the play’s reception from those who have been affected by missing people - they say I have managed to capture much of their experience and put into words feelings they themselves had been trying to express. This obviously makes me very happy.”

He visited Saddleworth Moor in November 2016. “I went into The Clarence, the pub that the man on the moor visited before his tragic demise. I spoke to the landlord who heard his final words.

“I walked up the path he took from Dovestone reservoir at the bottom of Saddleworth moor. At the area where he was discovered somebody had laid down some red roses. It was a poignant moment, and a heart-warming one too: it was clear strangers had thought it important that this man’s death (and life) was marked in some way.”

In February this year, the man on the moor was finally identified as London-born David Lytton. Much detail has since emerged about his life, death, and final journey.

“But the central mystery of this tragic story still remains unresolved: why did he do it? Perhaps we’ll never know. But at least his family have closure. Many others are not so lucky,” says Max.

The emotional anguish forms the main theme of the piece.

“There is anger, hurt, guilt, and burning curiosity: what drives someone to disappear?” says Max. “What are they running from or towards? How did I not see this coming? These feelings never dissipate or ease. Those left behind do not experience grief, but something different - something more painful, because grief has a resolution; the left behind do not.”

It is difficult to portray the anguish felt by those with missing loved ones, adds Max.

“The central difficulty lies in the fact that the central emotion felt by those left behind by the long-term missing is not grief, but what psychologists call ‘ambiguous loss’. The person is physically absent, but psychologically present. With death there can be closure: a healing, a gradual forgetting. With missingness there can be none of that. ‘It feels like yesterday, every day’ one person told me. It’s the not knowing that’s the worst.

“After almost every show I have had an audience member coming up to me to share their story of missingness. This issue affects many more families than we think. In fact, 250,000 people go missing every year which is an amazing statistic.”

*The Man on the Moor is at Square Chapel, Halifax, at 8pm on May 12. For tickets: squarechapel.co.uk/whats-on/the-man-on-the-moor.