[AD – PR invite*]
Photograph: Tom Roe & Zachary Hunt in Police Cops The Musical, © Pamela Raith
At Edinburgh Fringe I kept walking past posters for Police Cops: The Musical, completely intrigued by the musical comedy. I didn’t have time to catch the show in Scotland, so I was absolutely thrilled to receive an invitation to review the production during the company’s London run. Based at Southwark Playhouse Borough from 8th September to 14th October, the musical is created by comedy troupe POLICE COPS and it is the company’s original stage venture. It has been reimagined with a new score by composer Ben Adams (Eugenius! The Musical) and features regular company members and writers Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Roe, alongside performers Melinda Orengo and Natassia Bustamante.
The show combines physical comedy, original songs and eighties nostalgia. It is an adventure story about one man’s journey to being the ‘best damn police cop ever’, featuring memorable characters. Police Cops: The Musical is one of the funniest musicals that I have seen in a long time and I can’t wait to tell you more.
If I were to sum up Police Cops in a word, it would be absolutely bonkers. It follows a parody style, taking inspiration from eighties action movies and popular culture of the era. It is packed full of crude humour, gags and fast-paced dialogue, some of which could be described as shocking. The show feels like comedy on steroids, with the company constantly pushing boundaries and taking the material to new and daring places with every sentence. It does sometimes feel like the show straddles a fine line between being absolutely hilarious and taking things too far, but if you can roll with the madness of it all, it is truly magnificent.
Physical comedy and choreography
Physical comedy and movement are at the musical’s core and the tricks, transitions and impeccable sense of timing within the company are nothing short of impressive. Matt Cole’s choreography is inspired, adding to the overall humour of the show. I really enjoyed the slow motion and over the top running sequences, which visually links the production to the action films it is based on.
Props and costumes
Many costumes are utilised within the 2 hour runtime, with the performers practically throwing them on and off within the scenes. Hannah Stillman’s outfits fit perfectly into the eighties police cops genre, but also within the fast pace of the show. There are also elements of puppetry in the form of young children. These have been intertwined into the costumes so that the performers can wear the puppets as suits. It gives the cast the freedom to dance around the stage with the puppets, given that movement is so important to this type of comedy.
A vast number of props are used, such as a ‘levitating’ table and babies on elasticated strings that bounce across the stage. Props Supervisor Becky Kirby will have had to select items that are light-weight and moveable within the fast timings, but also forgo a sense of realism within the props as ultimately they need to add to the humour of the show.
There is room for things to go wrong given the speed of the costume transitions and changeover of props, but even in the couple of places where things don’t quite go to plan, the company takes these moments in their stride and makes you laugh along with them.
Music and lyrics
Hunt, Parkinson and Roe are behind the hilarious lyrics, which really lean into the production’s madcap comedy style. In combination with Adams’ catchy score, the production features some extremely humorous numbers, some of which haven’t made me laugh so much since my first experience of Avenue Q years ago. The songs help to drive the plot and are cleverly used in repetition to showcase the core themes of the piece. ‘Are you an American?’ and ‘Are you Mexican?’ are highlights of the soundtrack with their undertones of an eighties power ballad and outrageous reflections on American and Mexican cultures. I also thoroughly enjoyed ‘Best Damn Police Cop Ever’ which is used throughout the show as the motivational song.
The entire cast is full of born comics and singers that give everything to the material. For me, the standout performer is Nathan Parkinson however, who plays the baddie and several side characters. They are responsible for the most daring parts of the show and very much deserved the roar of approval towards the end of the performance.
During the second act, understudy Mychele Lebrun covered Bustamante’s parts due to cast illness and I thought she was absolutely fantastic, instantly jumping straight into the crazy atmosphere of the show. The transition between performers was seamless and is credit to the Police Cops overall company dynamic.
A must-see at Southwark Playhouse
Police Cops won’t be for everyone with its bold comedy style, lighthearted mockery of cultures and jam-packed performance schedule, but if you are looking for a show that is bound to put a smile on your face, look no further than Police Cops. I personally found it absolutely hilarious, taking parody-based comedy to new heights. The zany musical is based at The Large at Southwark Playhouse Borough from 8th September to 14th October. Tickets can be purchased via the theatre’s website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for Police Cops: The Musical was gifted in exchange for a review.