|Harry Melling in PEDDLING. Photo by Bill Knight|
Harry Melling is a very talented and passionate actor who expends inordinate amounts of energy in his solo performance of Peddling, currently enjoying its US premiere as part of the Brits Off Broadway program at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, his talent, passion and energy aren’t enough to carry this play which I didn't find to be particularly engaging. But since Melling also wrote the play, I guess he’s really got nobody to blame for that but himself.
The play’s opening scene takes place when a young peddler awakens in a field amid the burnt detritus of the night before but with no memory of how he got there. In attempting to make sense of his situation, he seeks to retrace his steps over the previous three days. Apparently, he was a member of a crew of six boys – possibly foundlings and referred to as part of “Boris’ young offenders’ scheme” – who are forced to sell housewares door-to-door. In due course, the audience is made privy to the various exchanges he had with an innocent young girl, a senile older woman, a fireworks vendor, and other potential customers.
In the play’s promotional material, it states that the peddler’s attempts to retrace his steps “lead him on a haunting journey where everything comes into question: his life, his world, his future.” If so, I’m sorry to say that I missed it. I saw no real evidence that the play was delving into any deep existential questions about life, the world and the future. Rather, it communicated a sense of the peddler’s mixed emotions - anger, confusion, basic decency, resentment, resignation – but never really tied it all together in any more meaningful, interesting or challenging sense.