Writer: The Pretend Men
Reviewer: Lizz Clark
The Pretend Men don’t know how to slow down. They’ve played to sell-out audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe for the last two years, and are now touring their second show, Police Cops in Space, in the UK and internationally. The sequel to 2016’s Police Cops, it’s the same no-holds-barred physical-comedy-meets-genre-spoof, only this time with a dash of sci-fi flair.
In the distant future, a mysterious old man reminisces about his youth – the time when he was determined to be the best Police Cop in the universe. We follow him through an untraditional coming-of-age story that combines cop show clichés, 80s sci-fi tropes, and sheer absurdity into an hour of top-class entertainment. Playing around fifteen roles between them, the three performers – Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe – race to outdo each other in comedic exuberance.
Our setting is the future as it was imagined in the 1980s. Glow-sticks stand-in for laser beams; Terminator references abound; and there’s a childishly simple, yet brilliantly inventive, staging for the dramatic moment when they take a spaceship ‘into hyperdrive’. It’s just one of the Pretend Men’s scores of ingenious tricks: they combine physicality and staging knowhow to keep coming up with delightful little moments that draw huge laughs.
Parkinson plays our hero, Sammy. He’s the closest this show has to a comedic ‘straight man’, which is to say that, although he takes part in several dance interludes, he looks charmingly awkward while doing it. Roe shines as Sammy’s nemesis Tanner, as well as two different grizzled mentors, and has a knack for giving each role a distinct comic flavour. His ad-libbed villain’s rants – perverted, confused, hilarious – must be seen to be believed. Hunt, as Sammy’s father Jimmy and sidekick pilot Ranger, struggles to match Roe’s level of differentiation between characters, but whomever he plays, he’s great to watch.
Along the way, there are various eccentric side characters, dream sequences, spaceship repairs, and oversexed robots. Although the narrative appears cluttered, the show is carried along by this endless flow of great ideas. Before a joke can stale it is usually interrupted by a dance break, a new character leaping out of the wings, or an explosion. The cast’s boundless energy is matched only by their comedy talent – the belly laughs keep coming. It’s true that the framing narrative is underdeveloped, and the whole thing doesn’t quite come to a satisfying end. On the way through, however, it’s gloriously silly, remarkably clever, and indisputably fun.
Runs until 3rd March 2018 | Image: Contributed