Peddling (HighTide Festival, Halesworth(
A young man going from door-to-door with an identity badge and a selection of goods one can buy cheaper (and better) elsewhere. So what?
Harry Melling's play Peddling, receiving its première at this year's HighTide Festival, is in some ways a remarkable piece of work. It's in verse, though that is something which is not immediately apparent, and – because the author is also the performer – it layers a great number of other resonances over its concentrated sound.
The setting by Lily Arnold is a cube. The walls are gauze, the floor is sanded. A post, the sort of thing which supports telephone wires and overhead electric cables, is in the centre, part stairway to the stars, part gallows-tree. It's a confined environment, and the boy – on day release with others from a young offenders' institution – is trapped in it.
His assigned beat takes in part of London's North Circular Road. There are the foreign-owned, uninhabited mansions of the Bishop's Avenue and the carefully preserved Hampstead Garden Suburb cottages with their security systems. If you don't have the password, you remain outside.
One senses that this young man has always been an outsider. Melling brings an intensity to his dilemma which I think is meant to evoke compassion, and also a rage against the social circumstances which pits people behind bars (for whatever reason) against those who lock their gates with such deliberation.
Director Steven Atkinson engages fully in the story. The anger is there and the sense of futility. Yet somehow the heart-break and heart-wrenching are shadowed. But it's a remarkable début for a writer who is not afraid of words. Only, perhaps, of where they might lead him.
Peddling runs at the HighTide Festival, Halesworth until 19 April then transfers to 59E59, New York City from 22 April.