August 6, 2013  //  By:   //  Edinburgh, Reviews  //  Comments are off

Rating – ***
Reviewed by Alex Foott

Wardens – Schadenfreude Productions Limited
Written and directed by Garrett Millerick
Performance date – Sun 4th Aug 2013

Traffic wardens. Is there a more detestable marriage of words? If, like me, the very thought of them has you shrieking wildly with fury then Garrett Millerick’s latest satire will surely ease your anguish. Shedding light on the idiosyncrasies of this demonic species, Wardens offers us insight into a previously unexplored area. With a cast that boasts some of the most recognised stand-up comedians to grace the Edinburgh Fringe, it attempts to redeem the most despised of all occupations.

The play opens with four parking attendants fleeing an angry mob and seeking refuge in an abandoned cricket pavilion. Nigel, Jignesh, Siobhan and Daniel, played by Paul Putner, Nish Kumar, Vikki Stone and Colin Hoult respectively, are joined by Martin (Thom Tuck), a harebrained pharmacist who happens walk past and follow them into their safe haven. Swapping sob stories and discussing various occupational hazards, the quintet plan their escape. Needless to say, there are hilarious results.

Wardens lightheartedly explores the woes of the parking attendant and asks that, in future, we consider them as individuals before we hurl missiles of abuse and excrement. This ‘support group for the most despised people in the world’ is something of a tutorial for tolerance and, with a cast of comedians, there are gags aplenty. However, there are more than a few instances where the jokes fall flat. The dialogue is evidently intended to induce laughter but not all of the actors are able to connect with the timing and vocal tone needed. It demonstrates that these comedians are not necessarily comic actors and, taken from their comfort zones, they shuffle awkwardly through the plot. Putner’s grounded characterisation holds the cast together and provides a wry humour from which the others feed. Tuck is the clown of the piece and provides the majority of the one-liners with finesse while Stone’s performance leaves much to be desired. She struggles to maintain eye contact with her cast, directing her lines to their chests and gesticulating like a distressed teenager.

Well-paced and filled to the brim with altercations and anecdotes, Millerick’s latest comedy is cleverly thought provoking. The humour doesn’t always find its target (a particular dung-related gag far outstays its welcome) and the individual performers are varied in their ability yet there is a certain clumsy charm to this piece. A real triumph for the ultimate underdogs.