Occasionally side-splittingJohannes Hjorth

Writer, director, producer, actor – The Unprofessionals is the Henry Wilkinson show. Wilkinson leads from the front as Norman Sterling, husband of Rita. Together they are a couple of bumbling pensioners who come into a swapped briefcase full of Italian mafia money. The double-act of Wilkinson and Beth Dubow, who plays Rita, is the highlight of the show. The pair bounced lines off each other with immaculate timing, and riffed hilariously through the opening night cock-ups.

The Sterlings find themselves on the run from The Fez, played by Hannah Sands, and his two goons, played by Paul Tait and Johanna Ohlman. The mafia gang were funny enough, but you would have expected more of Wilkinson’s style to have rubbed off on them; perhaps being directed by the writer made them feel they had less free rein. The rest of the cast gave sound support, starting with Louis Rogers’ solid performance as a rival mobster to get the show rolling. Rebecca Thomas somehow managed to differentiate each of her swishy femmes fatales, while Haydn Jenkins popped up in some contorted form at refreshing intervals.

Wilkinson’s style of humour makes for a strange audience atmosphere. At each joke, some are unmoved, most are chuckling, and others are rolling in the isles, with everyone taking turns in each role. You are gently amused throughout, until every now and then something really tickles you, and side-splittingly so. There is room for the script to turn some more of the chuckles into giggles; some of the jokes ham up a predictable cliché, but without that fatally funny twist.

As well as a decent script, a show of this kind relies on its technical team to keep up the pace, but this performance was beset with more than the usual first-night teething problems. Granting the limitations of a late show, the set could still have done more to distinguish between scenes and locations, while the lighting was distractedly out of time. It is this, combined with the general slapstick nature of the play, that makes it one for the weekend, when it will be at its slickest and silliest.

The Unprofessionals runs at the ADC at 11pm until Saturday 14th February.

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