6th November 2023
Imagine being stuck in a hotel room with your work colleague. Imagine that for the time being, it’s indefinite. Then imagine your hotel is in Nuneaton. Darkly comic and thoroughly entertaining, Professional, by Silent Gutter Theatre Company, is a show that isn’t here to be messed with. Written by Oliver Back and directed by Emma Turner, the hour-long performance is an enrapturing, laugh-a-minute whirlwind.
Opening with the flushing of a toilet and a disgruntled Martin (Liam Powell-Berry), the tone is set for a performance full of razor-sharp wit and an answer for everything. Mostly, the answer is a visit to the arcade, despite strict instructions for the two hitmen to lay low and wait for a phone call. As Martin yo-yos between boredom and being entertained by sugar packets, Powell-Berry is masterful at portraying the whimsical with a side of sadism, complimented by the unfazed Harry, brought by a smooth and cool Lee Burnitt. Between the two of them, they fill the room at Hope Street Theatre and captivate the audience with ease.
Restless, petulant Martin covers just about every inch of the stage – with just about every inch of his body – as he tears his hair out in sheer tedium. His counterpart, Harry, merely reclines with the ‘Telegraph Sports’ pages and amuses himself with the cricket scores. It is an age-old juxtaposition of two contrasting personalities that a combination of Back’s slick writing and Burnitt and Powell-Berry’s polished, powerful performances deliver to just the right level to suit this dark comedy.
The set conjures up the perfect image of a cheap, uninspiring hotel room – twin beds and a kettle are just about all a work trip provides these days. Without much to spark conversation, the audience is led from the serious to the surreal accompanied by some light killing sprees and a dash of philosophical thinking. As the frustration at confinement mounts, Martin, giving up on the arcade dream, declares he is wasting away, and we are introduced to Shannon (Faye McCutcheon) who works at the front desk of the hotel.
Entirely convincing and impressive in her performance, McCutcheon alights on the nuances of reality in hospitality, flitting between the charming receptionist and the innate resentment of hospitality workers at rude guests. The presence of all three on stage introduces a new dynamic to the performance adding a helping of the bizarre. An expertly delivered existential monologue is given by McCutcheon, taking the audience on a journey through time that was unexpected, but wholly appreciated nonetheless.
Jumping between childish goading, surprising violence, and the delight at unlimited coke available with room service, the audience is kept guessing and cracking up throughout this fast-paced satire that the three incredibly talented actors bring to life. Cleverly written and directed, you never quite know what will happen next, and the spontaneity forms part of the charm of this performance. The sell-out runs of Professional certainly speak for themselves, and if you missed it this time, any future work by Silent Gutter Theatre Company is well worth a watch.
Images by Andrew AB Photography, used with permission from Silent Gutter Theatre Company.