Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Peddling, April 22, 2016 ***

By Harry Melling, by Melbourne Theatre Company
MTC Southbank Theatre, The Lawler, until May 6, 2016; regional tour May 9-27, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***

This review also in Herald Sun Arts in print and online after Mon April 25, KH

Darcy Brown

Peddling reminds us that having a family, a job or even somewhere to sleep are privileges that are out of reach for the disenfranchised in our communities.

In Harry Melling’s monodrama, Darcy Brown plays a homeless, 19-year-old youth who goes door-to-door in London, peddling cheap household cleaning products as part of a scam that his unseen but formidable Boss Man calls “Boris Johnson’s Young Offenders’ Scheme”.

Melling, known for his movie role as Dudley Dursley, Harry Potter’s cousin, writes the Boy’s dialogue in galloping, rap-style, blank verse that echoes the lad’s frenetic behaviour and disordered, often unhinged thinking.

“So I’m doing what I do best. I’m making a f...ing mess,” quips the Boy, and Brown’s feverish performance makes clear that this Boy’s mess is mental as well as physical.

As the Boy, Brown frantically scrambles and slides over a skateboard ramp (designer, Marg Horwell), leaping off it to knock on the doors of affluent or middle-class London homes only to be shunned, patronised or summarily dismissed.

Brown embodies this disaffected young man’s desperation and fear as he tries to scrape a living from dodgy peddling while avoiding the wrath of his Boss Man.

Susie Dee’s dynamic direction intersperses still moments amidst hectic scenes, and focuses on the rhythmic language, vivid characters and shifting locations the Boy visits.

Brown careers around the space, tumbling over and under the skate ramp, spilling the Boy’s addled inner thoughts then reining in his ranting to politely address customers on their doorsteps.

He inhabits a parade of characters that include a shopkeeper who sells him illegal fireworks, the Boss Man, an obliging elderly resident, a helpful, little girl who he calls The Gatekeeper and her mother who the Boy recognises from his troubled past.

The Boy’s poignant craving for redemption and to find a place of love and peace are heart wrenching.

Brown evokes a sense of place as the Boy scampers agitatedly along streets and spends troubled, painful nights sleeping on concrete in a car park, although the skate ramp restricts the space and seems too confining for Brown’s physicality.

Brown could pace himself better and relax a little so that the Boy’s chaotic behaviour does not interfere with the clarity of his dialogue, thereby ensuring that the underlying social commentary is always comprehensible.

Bec Matthews’ rumbling, live percussion underscores the Boy’s anxious journey and punctuates dramatic moments with thumping bass notes, although it occasionally obscures Brown’s dialogue for those seated near the drum kit.

Peddling is a tough story that uses contemporary, lyrical language to inventively investigate life on the streets.

By Kate Herbert

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