Review: Peddling at the Maddermarket Theatre

going house to house,

door to door –

knock knocking –

professional doorstep hopping,

hoping that someone might show an interest. 

Peddling opens with our protagonist waking up in a field. His past is unclear, as is his future. Nameless and homeless, he relates his story to the audience in a one-man performance of what it is like be without a defined place or purpose in the world. He recounts the story of an average day for him, going from one home to the next, trying without much luck to sell household products, “life’s essentials”, to happy nuclear families, until he stumbles upon an old acquaintance who shakes up both the narrative and his life.

Written by Harry Melling (best known for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter franchise, and who also played Boy in the play’s original performance) and performed in the Emerson Studio at Maddermarket Theatre, Coast To Coast Theatre Company’s production of Melling’s debut play does not fail to impress. Director Charlie Douglas creates a dark and unsettling atmosphere which is emphasised by Seb Fear’s acting and the quiet intimacy of the venue. Together these factors create a production that is almost fairytale-esque, and eerie in a way that keeps the audience on edge throughout the play. Fear plays on the unpredictability of his character, making his performance strikingly memorable. His character, known only as Boy, evokes sympathy in the audience, although it is quickly made clear how some could come to fear this young man. Having fallen through the cracks of the social system, he is homeless and nameless, a true “lost” Boy. His sorrow and anger at his situation are pungent, and this unbridled emotion highlights the vulnerability of Fear’s character.

Douglas’s dark directorial style works perfectly with Melling’s poetic script; the rhymes and eloquence of the writing are made hypnotising by the precision of Fear’s performance. Each word and movement appears to be carefully planned in a manner that does not seem overly-scripted, but rather that achieves the perfect balance between structure and fluidity. As the plot progresses, the tension in Fear’s narration slowly yet steadily rises to create an unsettling atmosphere. Although the narration initially appears chaotic, much like Boy’s psyche and motives, it ultimately reveals itself to be far more deliberate: what at first seems to be no more than a rambling series of anecdotes turns into a beautifully structured story of love, loss, and belonging, told in a poetic, almost musical tone.

This was an outstanding production by Coast to Coast, a theatre company that although hardly a year old has reached impressive heights. Peddling is yet another example of the breadth of genre and tone of productions that the company is capable of.

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July 2021
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