Lucie Loves… Theatre // Review: Peddling – a London premiere by Harry Melling at Arcola Theatre


Springtime in London saw jmgcreative and I immersed in more theatre than we could shake a stick at. We were invited to the press night of Peddling - Harry Melling’s debut play produced by Cath Bates and stage managed by Hannah Gore.

Ushered into a darkened room in the basement of Arcola theatre in Dalston - tummies full of delicious bar snacks and red wine - we took our seats around a stage encased by four intriguing, mesh-covered sides. 

The lights came up and lying in the middle, dog-like, was a young man, asleep, on a filthy patch of waste ground with very few possessions strewn around him. One of them being a firework that he clutched protectively in his hand.

Melling uses his anger-driven slam poetry to tell a real story. A story that thousands of young Londoners are living right this very moment and hints at how they may have ended up living rough. 

“It’s about time someone heard me click my fingers.”

Simple yet evocative lighting techniques portray faceless characters and add diversity to Melling’s monologue. 

“She said she failed you.”

The play was the embodiment of the endless current issues surrounding social deprivation: one of vulnerable people continually being let down by the system. It touched on one of the toughest of occupations: social work and the fact that if that one person doesn’t take the action needed to intervene in a family’s downward spiralling situation lives can and will be ruined forever. 

“My concrete heart now beating.”

The use of the mesh screen helped to isolate the way the character feels from the world he’s merely existing in. It reinforced his feeling of being a ‘nobody’. The fact that the audience could see in and yet - for all we knew - he could not see a soul, was quite astounding.

“Rip the world wide open and everyone who gave me shit will fall into it.”

Peddling is quite possibly the most moving live theatre performance that I have ever seen.

Congratulations, Harry Melling - may you continue to create such meaningful work. Work that stirs both hearts and minds and makes your audience sit up to situations screaming out for attention.

Follow Harry Melling on Twitter @MrHarryMelling

Photography © Lucie Kerley