A MUGGLE DOES SOME MAGIC
This has to be the most explosively determined statement ever that “I am not just the one in those damn Harry Potter films!”. Harry Melling, who from the age of 11 had the unrewarding role of the fat Muggle bully Dudley Dursley, has actually done some very creditable theatre roles: not only at the NT and Chichester (as the Fool) but as a really excellent Christopher Isherwood in Southwark’s I Am A Camera.
But this time, though his Muggle history is flagged up in publicity, he gives us an extraordinary 50-minute solo, a debut piece written by himself, which transfers to Brits Off Broadway in a couple of weeks time. He is alone, under Steven Atkinson’s careful direction, and chiefly imprisoned inside a striking gauze box with a tree and some lightbulbs (the set is Lily Arnold’s, because Hightide does not skimp on striking visuals). And the character he creates, which gradually gains focus in a compassionate and remarkable way, is a pedlar boy.
In a dystopian future vision, which may give Broadway a curious impression of our penal system, a young offender on a “Boris” scheme has been driven in a van with others to sell his tray of lavatory-paper, dusters etc from door to door. He is lost, and semi-articulate, but from his stream of consciousness come memories of how he came to be there. He was a care leaver, and finds himself in anger knocking on the door of his former ‘Mrs Independent Reviewing Officer” . He begins to cross London from Hampstead to the far south – in fine vivid tumbling prose – carrying a firework, looking for his birth mother and his lost childhood.
At first I was unsure about it, but Melling’s vision is strong, the storytelling develops, and his language is always lively: you are drawn into the poor 19-year-old lost boy’s delusions and fantasies and dreams and memories (childhood, church, Lord of the Dance..”). There are moments of savage humour and of pathos. It is a remarkable writing debut and a storming performance, and I shall never, ever, mention Dudley Dursley in the context of Melling again.
http://www.hightide.org to 19th