MTC’s latest play, Peddling, is the story of a troubled and disaffected young man simply named Boy. Set in London, it is essentially a monologue penned by first time playwright Harry Melling who has certainly come a long way since his days as Mummy’s darling, Dudley Dursley, in the Harry Potter films. Melling also starred when the play opened last year and the role is certainly a daunting one.
Tackling the Boy in this MTC production is Green Room Award winning actor Darcy Brown. Graduating from NIDA in 2012, Brown’s body of work is already varied and impressive and one gets the feeling that playing Melling’s street-savvy 19-year old will be another feather in Brown’s ever swelling cap.
Brown was initially drawn to the language and poetry of the piece which he describes as a fractured verse form. “A stream-of-consciousness storytelling that echoes Beckett, Albee, Mark O’Rowe, Kate Tempest,” he says. ” As I examined it more closely, the almost fairy-tale journey narrative at its centre, its cyclic time structure, and the cast of characters evoked in the Boy’s mind suggested all sorts of unusual, exciting theatrical possibilities.”
Melling’s Boy ends up as part of a door-to-door peddling ring: a scam run by a ‘Bossman’ figure, a little reminiscent of Oliver Twist. The Boy is trying to make sense of his place within the world as well as his own troubled upbringing. “I admire his resilience and optimism,” states Brown. “He has no choice but to live day-to-day: ‘Keep moving, keep peddling’, he says at one point; ‘all you can do is but try… and hold your head up high’.”
The Boy has been wounded deeply by some catastrophic event in his past, which he can’t quite recall, but he carries this with him. “His internal life is quite extraordinary; in a way, the entire play takes place inside his head, and it’s that idea of the world inside our heads being far greater and bigger than the world outside. His flights of fancy, his imaginative life, are inspiring and thrilling,” says Brown.
“The play takes a figure who is usually marginalised in society and places them at the heart of the narrative. One of its central questions seems to be, ‘How did I get here?’ It is posed in the first scene, and the rest of the play works to answer it, in all its possible permutations. This then ties into the concept of choice: how much of a choice – if any – does one have in one’s situation, state, nature? Melling considers the choices we make, but more crucially, the choices that are made for us – by parents, teachers, authority figures, and circumstance, suggesting that the (entirely arbitrary) circumstance of our birth may be the single greatest piece of luck in life.”
“Also, in a world in which we are increasingly cut-off and cocooned from one-another by technology and the pace of living, isolation is a major factor with which we contend every day. Melling wrote the play as a solo piece because the Boy’s job – selling door-to-door – is a solitary activity. The play deals repeatedly with the possibility and difficulty of connecting with other human beings.”
This is Brown’s first solo show which, in and of itself, was initially a very unknown quantity. Brown acknowledges that rehearsing a show without other actors to play with and bounce off can be a challenge.
“Thankfully I’m working with a brilliant live percussionist, Bec Matthews, and a great joy has been finding moments where we can directly interact…but we’re also trying to work out exactly what that relationship signifies: is this his subconscious, unconscious, a guardian angel, a support network, his own internal drum-beat?”
Peddling is a tremendously physical piece and that, says Brown, added to the volume of text, has felt a bit like a continuous juggling act. “You get the hang of one element, and find that another has suddenly spun away from you. Trying to peg down this character’s need to tell his story has also been difficult, but essential – who are the audience? What does he need from them? Why is he stepping back through these events?”
The play is headed by award winning actor and director Susie Dee (SHIT, Savages, Long Pigs, Happy Ending, Moth) who, according to Brown, brings a great creative balance to the rehearsal room.
” It’s a very playful rehearsal room. Susie is terrific at giving you space to work something through, to nut out a problem moment, and also to just experiment, but she also provides wonderful structure. We’ve worked very quickly, and she gives the whole thing a great sense of urgency which this text seems to demand: the character is being buffeted from post to post, at the mercy of all sorts of external forces.”
MTC brings to the stage the Australian premiere of a strange and beautiful script which places an uncommon character centre-stage. A fast-paced, percussive, extremely physical and magical story.
April 21 – May 6