Peddling at the Arcola
Harry Melling has come a long way since playing Harry Potter’s mean cousin Dudley in the worldwide blockbusters of the same name. With one-man drama Peddling, as both writer and star, he establishes himself as a serious playwright.
The play is based on an encounter Melling experienced himself years ago while living in North London with his parents. Once in a while young people would come to the door with a plastic crate, trying to sell on “everyday essentials”. One day, a peddler refused to leave their front garden and only disappeared when he heard the police arriving. The incident stuck with Melling and inspired him to write this play.
Peddling imagines the life of a young adult who’s too old for childcare and finds himself traumatised, unable to access “normal” society. It’s a poetic stream of consciousness that explores the inner life of a youngster who, abandoned by his family and the authorities, becomes one of many rough sleepers who roam the streets of the capital. The hypnotising rhythm of speech delivers intelligently constructed verses, drawing the audience into the manic inner life of a young man who rushes from angry outbursts to sobbing breakdowns, unable to find a way out of misery.
The stage design by Lily Arnold reinforces the boy’s isolation. He is confined to a small square, walled by semi-translucent fabric. Although seeing him, the audience is not allowed a clear view. Consequently, the character himself is walled in and experiences an inability to connect to the world around him. Thus the scenery is a simple and brilliant metaphor for the play’s core issue.
Melling’s biggest strength is the portrayal of the character’s vulnerability. The louder he screams, the more helpless he seems. His aggression is intimidating and enables the audience to feel his frustration with himself. In a moment of hope he dances and drinks, only to awake the next morning to the realisation that his world has not changed.
Peddling is poetic, intelligent, modern and challenging. In short, a must-see. Melling’s work will surely be shown on the city’s big stages soon.
Peddling is on at Arcola Theatre until 28th March 2015, for further information visit here.