Odds are you remember Harry Melling from his role as Dudley Dursley- Potter’s nasty cousin in the book to screen adaption of Harry Potter. However, if you go to see Peddling at the ‘hipper than hip’ Arcola Theatre in Dalston, you will henceforth remember him as lot more than just that. This intense 50 minute long, one-man drama, showcases Melling’s eclectic acting range and his lyrical abilities as a writer in a way that a movie side-role never could.
In the first stage drama he has ever written, writer/actor Melling plays a lost, nameless young offender who goes from door to door across London selling overpriced ‘everyday essentials’ to disinterested Londoners and analysing his life in a rhyme-infused stream of consciousness as he goes. I won’t reveal the entire premise (because the play is so short) but I will say this much- when the nameless boy stumbles on the door of his caseworker and she doesn’t even recognise him, he will either drown forever or choose a different path entirely.
As the play opens we find Melling inside a mesh box positioned in the middle of the room. His character stays in that box for the duration of the show. This nifty piece of set design can either be interpreted as the confines of the peddler’s mind or as a dark cage from which we receive his poetic monologue. Whichever way you interpret it there is something powerful about watching a man pace to and fro inside a black box. Interestingly enough the box draws away from the isolation of the one-man show and submerges the audience inside the character’s isolation instead. We are looking in on him and judging him- just like the people behind the peepholes judge the peddler boy.
Melling makes great use of the stage and the few props at his disposal. The wooden beam positioned in the middle of the stage becomes everything from a door, to a child peeping through a peephole, to a watering tower, and you believe it every step of the way. Steve Atkinson has a done a great job with directing here- Melling makes spectacular use of his body and movement and aligns them very well with the text. He delivers his lines with the melodic, rhythmic fashion of spoken word.
Of course, it’s still a one-man show in Dalston, which can be a tough sell. It’s off the beaten track for die-hard West-Enders, and the subject isn’t one I would suggest for an uplifting night out.
With that said it’s still worth it- it has enough novelty to keep you entertained, enough substance to make you think and enough buzz to keep you wired for the rest of your night.
Reviewed by Jacqueline Silvester
Peddling will be at the Arcola Theatre until the 28th of March. Click here for more information and to book tickets.
Photo credit: Nobby Clark