Mon Droit: Mike McShane and Suki Webster at the Edinburgh Festival
How the West End Extra reported the discovery of Robert James Moore's bones on September 30 2011
Published: 17 August, 2012
by JOSH LOEB
A NEW play based on a bizarre story that made international headlines after being first revealed in West End Extra is currently playing at the Edinburgh Festival.
The show, written by and starring Whose Line Is It Anyway? comedian and actor Mike McShane, imagines the life of Robert James Moore, a Royal Family obsessive whose skull and bones were unearthed on an island in St James’s Park in 2011.
The remains of Mr Moore, a 69-year-old American national, had lain undetected on the island, which is just 100 yards from the gates of Buckingham Palace, for at least two years.
The curious case was the subject of an inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court. Few details of Mr Moore’s biography have been revealed and his family have never come forward to speak about his life.
Now the American improvisational actor Mr McShane, who collaborates with Paul Merton and describes himself as one of the Have I Got News For You star’s “band of merry idiots”, has crafted a piece of theatre in which he imagines Mr Moore’s life as an isolated airport car hire office attendant from Kansas.
Mr McShane said he became fascinated by the story and drew upon his own experiences during his troubled teenage years when creating the drama.
“When I was a teenager I was put into a state-run mental institution,” he said.
“I imagined Moore as mid-western, very polite, and just barely functional with his drugs. I’ve made him really alone in life. His mother’s in a home. He has a sister who is managing the estate for his mother and has to sell the house. Now he has to move on and find himself a place in the world.”
The fictional Moore goes to speed-dating events before deciding to book himself a plane ticket to London while in the throes of a mental relapse. In the British capital he sleeps rough, self-medicates using alcohol and maxes out his credit card.
As he increasingly loses touch with reality he becomes obsessed with the Queen and comes to see himself as “a pilgrim in the traditional sense of the world – he’s made a pilgrimage to see this great lady, the Queen”.
The title of the play, Mon Droit, is a reference to the British monarchical motto “Dieu et mon droit”.
Mr McShane said he had trawled the internet searching for new details about Mr Moore’s back story and had even approached figures in the police, but had been unable to obtain any information beyond what was published in the West End Extra.
Mr McShane said his fascination with the story flowed from his belief that humans are “pattern- seeking creatures” frantically, and often hopelessly, looking for ways to make sense of their environment.
At the Westminster inquest last year, both the coroner’s officer and leading police officer in the case said their efforts to track down any next of kin for Mr Moore had been unsuccessful, but after the West End Extra’s court report was published Mr Moore’s family contacted the US embassy and his remains were eventually repatriated.
After the case came to light several media commentators wrote opinion pieces in which they said the length of time Mr Moore’s body had remained undiscovered was an indictment of our atomised society – a view with which Mr McShane partially agrees.
“It’s about isolation,” he said. “Cities don’t discourage it. But I always find it funny that people can be so shocked that someone can die and their body can be undiscovered for a long time or they can go missing without anybody noticing. I feel like saying, do you know your neighbour’s name?
“People die or go missing without anybody noticing all the time. You’re lucky if someone takes any interest in you in the world, even if it’s a negative one. We’re all just floating on the surface. There’s billions of us.”
Asked if he thought his interest in this subject matter was morbid, Mr McShane said: “I was raised Irish catholic so I do have a natural morbid bent even though I was adopted.”
• Mon Droit is at the Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh until August 27.