Potter to pedlar: Harry Melling writes and stars in Peddling at the Arcola. Photograph: Nobby Clark

Harry Potter star Harry Melling is hoping to create some magic of his own when his one man show Peddling comes to the Arcola Theatre this month.

The 25-year-old actor, best known for playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films, wrote and stars in this solo show about a pedlar boy trying to make sense of his life “via the doorsteps of privileged London and the cracks that swallow thousands of young Londoners every year”.

The play, which is Melling’s writing debut, premiered at the HighTide festival last April, and has since been shown in New York.

The play is inspired by an episode in Melling’s childhood, when a young boy knocked on the door of his family home in North London, trying to sell them household goods.

“My dad opened the door, and sometimes we’d buy something but on this occasion we didn’t, and the boy very politely turned away. We closed the door and suddenly we heard this howling and this swearing and things being thrown against the house.

“Ever since then I’ve always been fascinated about where these people are from, what their lives are like, and that was where the idea spiralled from.”

The play follows a character named only Boy, who has been through the care system and now finds himself trudging down Bishop’s Avenue trying to sell sundry items such as marigold gloves, dish cloths or toilet paper.

The play touches on family, identity and homelessness, though Melling stresses it is not overtly political. It is, however, very much a London play, set on Hampstead Heath and with the action taking in various North London locations.

Early indications suggest the play has a Philip Ridley-esque feel, the main character is not named, there’s little background information for the audience to grasp, and there’s an otherworldy sense while being set in the present day.

Most interesting, particularly for a debut play, is Peddling’s language, with Melling writing it in an incantatory, performance poetry style.

“There came a point half way through where I realised it should rhyme, not a regular rhyme but an irregular, spoken word-y rhyme. I guess it came from the fact I want it to be theatrical and magical, in terms of this boy wants a bit of magic to take him out from his not so fun reality.

“I also wanted this boy to be absolutely brilliant. I thought what an amazing thing to show this boy with all this potential, all this gift for language, but who lives such a shit life.”

Peddling is at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL until 28 March
arcolatheatre.com

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