After its Melbourne season, Peddling is touring to regional Victoria in May. Part of the MTC Education and Families program, the script is on the 2016 VCE drama playlist and although aimed at school groups and students, it welcomes a broader audience.
A teenage Boy is living on the London streets and peddling toilet paper and sponges door-to-door under the guise of a young offenders program. It’s written – and was originally performed in the UK and USA – by young UK playwright and actor Harry Melling. He’s known for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films; it shouldn’t matter, but the distance between spoilt and loved Duddles and the Boy in Peddling is so vast that it’s impossible not to compare
The monologue’s exploration of poverty, loss and despair is compelling, more so than the writer’s experiment with poetic form. His story is real, but his poetry feels forced.
But director Susie Dee has worked with musician Bec Matthews to make the self-conscious rhythm an asset. Matthews plays a live percussion soundtrack (with Kelly Ryall’s sound) that creates tension and an emotional counterbalance when it’s most needed. The music makes the text sound almost operatic, but never takes it out of the dismal streets where it’s set.
Performing like Matthews is beating the rhythm of the Boy’s heart is NIDA graduate Darcy Brown. Using every millimetre of Marg Horwell’s cardboard skate ramp design, he brings a passion, honesty and physical intensity that makes the awkwardness of the text feel natural. He opens up beyond the words to let the subtext, and everything he hides from the world, create compassion, empathy, and fear when he’s lost all hope.
This is exciting theatre being made for young people. It’s gritty and real and shows that theatre is far more than text written by dead or old people.