POLICE COPS IN SPACE
Old Joint Stock, Birmingham, Friday 6th April, 2018
Wondering whether the show will live up to the promise of its title, I settle into my seat. It’s a packed house – word has got around that the Pretend Men (Nathan Parkinson, Zachary Hunt and Tom Roe) are in town with their award-winning brand of theatre.
A sequel to Police Cops, which I regret not seeing, this is a fast-paced frolic, telling the story of Sammy Johnson (Parkinson) who, following the murder of his Police Cop father, seeks to become the best damned Police Cop in Space ever. Sammy teams up with Ranger, an alien pilot (Hunt), and they go after the killer, megalomaniac robot Tanner (Roe). Along the way, we meet a host of unsavoury characters, all portrayed with infallible gusto by this energetic trio of performers. The action is choreographed to maximise the silliness. Characterisations are broader than the Milky Way and the script is riddled with nonsense and word-play. If the Pretend Men were ever tamed, they could be churning out comedy programmes for Radio 4.
I enjoy the wild inventiveness of it all. It’s not so much low-tech as no-tech – although judicious use is made of glow-sticks from time to time. Very much a physical show, the movement of the actors is at the forefront of the performance, the daftness augmented by some silly props, among them a rat sellotaped to a remote-control car… The show is packed with moments of genius – a motorbike conjured out of next-to-nothing, for example, a balletic sequence between Parkinson and Roe, depicting the love story between Roe’s Terminator-like character and Sammy, his target… Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl crops up later, and it’s never been put to better use.
It’s an hour of non-stop delight and a great workout for your laughing gear. Sometimes a show comes along that represents everything I love about the theatre. If Police Cops in Space has something other to say, perhaps its holding up models of masculinity for our examination and ridicule. Perhaps it’s just celebrating the daftness of genre fiction as a version of the human condition. I don’t care; all I know is I had a great night.