Peddling

Written and performed by Harry Melling and directed by Steven Atkinson, Peddling is an incredibly intimate piece of theatre that will draw you right in, despite the thin piece of gauze that separates the life of the ‘Boy’ from you. Going door to door and attempting to sell his wares under the guise of a Boris Johnson scheme for young offenders, Peddling is about youth lost in modern London. We see a multitude of people answer their doors, endless streets, parks, the city, all seeming to appear before our eyes through Melling’s wonderful and flowing command of language.

With the feel of performance poetry but never too much of a gimmick in its style, the blend of south London dialect and poetic imagery meshes well together, enveloping the increasingly frantic young man we see on stage. Melling appears unrecognisable from his Harry Potter days, a boring cliché about anyone from the franchise but true all the same. His command of the space is impressive, for an actor so young and with such pace being maintained throughout.

A lone telegraph pole stands centre stage, strung up with lights which act as the people answering the door to him as he performs his spiel, using a portable PA system to distinguish his voice from theirs, a simple but clever device.

A piece of theatre that never feels too caught up in its depth and knows perfectly when to stop, peddling showcases an interesting talent in Harry Melling. One to watch, as he continues to peddle his wares.

Peddling is at Arcola Theatre until 28th March. Get tickets here

A Small Family Business

Last Thursday I went to the National Theatre Live broadcast of A Small Family Business, currently playing on the same stage it originally premiered on back in 1987, and starring Nigel Lindsay as Jack McCracken.

After promising to rebuild the furniture business originally set up by his father in law, Jack is prompted by knowledge that someone is selling their designs to the Italians, to clean up the business. However he soon discovers that to do this he must clean up the family behind it as well.

Corruption, familial ties and how far people will go to protect their own are all examined in this play, set originally in the 1980’s when it was written but still managing to highlight things about the modern culture of selfies and celebrity.

With wonderful direction from Adam Penford and sharp performances from the entire cast, Ayckbourn’s script is used to full potential, with light and dark moments played upon in equal measure until you’re not quite sure which is which. When being interviewed by the fabulous Emma Freud in the interval, Penford explained Ayckbourn’s agreement to the play being directed by him stemmed from his promise to not mess with it, and to allow the script, originally written 25 years ago, to be the guide.This is certainly something that comes across and is the key when handling writing as wonderful as that of Alan Ayckbourn.

Nigel Lindsay is sparkling, moving from consternation to blind rage to the reasoned and calm head of a family as easily as a factory owner moving from worker to worker. The extended family create their characters so strongly they’ll stick in your head for days after and Matthew Cottle is so marvellously horrid as Benedict Hough I feel quite ill just thinking about his performance.

This is the third National Theatre broadcast I’ve had the chance to see, and every time they blow me away. Aside from the quality of what I’m watching, the fact that I’m getting the chance to see these plays, despite not living in London, is a wonderful opportunity to throw open the culture that London’s theatre land offers tot he rest of the country and even the world – there are over 100 cinemas in the US which screen National Theatre productions. You also get to see detail that those present in the actual theatre might not get to, making being so far away from the real life National a little easier to bear. And if you miss the live event, lots of cinemas do encore screenings after.

You can buy tickets to see A Small Family Business at the National Theatre here, it’s on until 27th August.

You can also look for your nearest cinema which screens National Theatre Live here.