Poet Murray Lachlan Young touring Suffolk this April
PUBLISHED: 13:09 26 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:55 26 March 2019
Suffolk is the inspiration for performance poet Murray Lachlan Young's new darkly humorous, epic children's poem | Words: Jayne Lindill
It’s more than 20 years since Murray Lachlan Young shot to fame as Britain’s ‘Million Pound Poet’. It was the mid-nineties. Murray was 26, studies in media performance at Salford University were behind him and he was delivering his irreverent, rock’n’roll poetry around London’s underground cabaret.
Then in 1996, EMI came calling and signed him up for the aforementioned unprecedented £1 million. It made the headlines and Lachlan Young was suddenly famous. He toured with bands, supporting the likes of the Pet Shop Boys and the Pretenders, and was given his own series on MTV USA. He performed on the main stage at T in the Park and Glastonbury. He was a bard for our times, witty, clever, insightful and funny.
But he wasn’t universally popular. His observations on the establishment and his Byronesque image drew vitriolic criticism. Then EMI, having anointed Lachlan Young as the next big thing, lost faith in its pop poetry project. Lachlan Young went to ground, scorched by what he describes as a ‘very, very strange experience’.
In Suffolk to promote a live tour of his epic The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps, he looks back with a wry chuckle about it all. But you can’t help thinking it still smarts.
“I got to the point where I’d had enough,” he says, “so I disappeared for three years.” He wasn’t entirely out of the loop. He appeared regularly at the Edinburgh Festival, and toured with musician Julian Cope and poet Attila the Stockbroker.
He was also commissioned by Mark Rylance, then artistic director at the Globe, to write a poem marking the theatre’s relocation to its new home. In reality, however, fame had left him with writer’s block.
It was bound to be a short affliction, however. Rhyming verse is ingrained in Lachlan Young. He grew up reading works by Hilaire Belloc, Doctor Heinrich Hoffmann and Edward Lear, and listening to the Beatles’ White Album, Bob Dylan, and the sorrowful songs of Johnny Cash. He loves the cleverness of rhyming poetry, the rhythm and metre.
“There’s a hypnotic element to it that you don’t get with narrative,” he says. “And verse provides the writer with unforeseen novelties. You’re presented with a series of rhymers and you never know where they’re going to take you.”
He got back into the swing of things as poet in residence to Radio 4 Saturday Live, and since 2011 has been poet in residence at Radio 6, which he loves. He’s also a contributor to Test Match Special and Radio 2’s Arts Show.
His latest epic, The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps, is a sweeping, gothic, absurdly comic children’s poem, inspired by a stay at Butley. (Lachlan Young’s ex-wife’s family lives at Butley Priory). There are ghosts, witches, fairy folk and a classic tussle between good and evil.
Lachlan Young has teamed up with actor Joe Allen and musician Arun Ghosh to create the live show which tours eight venues in April, including Aldeburgh and Sudbury. He’s loved having a creative team around him, and is looking forward to bringing the work alive on stage, although, as he says, performing for children is not for the feint-hearted.
“My kids always told me when something I’d done was really bad,” he says. “They’re your harshest critics.” But then, he’s survived worse.
Where & when to see it
In The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps young, innocent Crispin, the brave young hero, inherits his parents’ stately home and embarks on a bizarre and entertaining voyage of discovery.
With Kenilworth, the ancient butler, as his guide, Crispin gradually learns the truth behind the untimely deaths of his deeply eccentric ancestors. From bare-knuckle fighters and intrepid explorers, to bell-bottomed hippies and Brit-pop clubbers, Murray Lachlan Young takes the audience on an historical and hilarious rollercoaster of rhyme.
Funded by the Arts Council and The University of Essex, The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps is also a book, a CD, and an interactive Virtual Reality experience.
April 13, 7pm
Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh
April 15, 3pm
Quay Theatre, Sudbury