Wardens[author-post-rating] (3/5 Stars)

In this new play by Darren Richman and Garrett Millerick, a group of traffic wardens, a Police Community Support Officer and a chemist are not so much ‘first against the wall when the revolution comes’ as ‘first to be trapped in a cricket pavilion when things start to get a bit lairy’. Boasting a cast of successful names from the Edinburgh Fringe comedy circuit, Richman and Millerick’s script generally fails to capitalise on the cast’s talents.

Paul Putner – who, judging from the press information, seems to have replaced David Cann relatively late in proceedings – takes the central role as Nigel, arguably the classic traffic warden. Nigel is curmudgeonly and misanthropic, and enjoys his job because he is pettily capable of deriving joy from the ruthless enforcement of senseless rules. It’s a familiar character and Putner is pitch-perfect, but, like most of the characters here, the way Nigel is written feels a little over-reliant on archetype and the foreknowledge of the audience.

The cast are generally strong, with Thom Tuck getting most of the laughs as Martin, a chemist who is here largely by accident, having followed everyone else when they were being chased – his mother told him it’s always best to follow the crowd. Nish Kumar and Colin Hoult are likeable and entertaining but feel underused, with Kumar pushed into a largely straight man role and Hoult given basically one joke to string out over the hour. Vikki Stone, meanwhile, seems distinctly uncomfortable and a little out-of-place, for reasons it’s hard to put a finger on; her performance is strangely detached from both her lines and the rest of the cast.

Richman and Millerick have some decent gags in here, but their premise never really flies. After all, when the characters debate about whether or not Martin, here by accident, should be made to leave, it begs the question: why don’t they all just take off their reflective jackets and walk out in the plain shirts and trousers underneath? As uniforms go, after all, a traffic warden’s is a pretty removable one.

The laughs in Wardens don’t have a consistent enough hit rate to justify its existence without the script having something to say, but Richman and Millerick don’t seem to have much of a point here. Or at least, not beyond their central conceit, which is that people don’t really like traffic wardens. There are enough decent laughs here to make for a pleasant hour, and some very strong comic actors on the stage, particularly Tuck and Hoult. But with an underdeveloped plot and underdeveloped characters, Wardens feels strangely like a preview mid-way through its run and, ultimately, a missed opportunity.

Wardens can be seen at Assembly Roxy every day until 26 August. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.