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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Police Cops
Assembly, Edinburgh  August 2021

I like my farces relentless, with gags coming so fast that you want to beg for mercy, needing time to catch your breath between laughs. Police Cops comes pretty close to meeting that ideal.

Ostensibly this is a parody of the film and television staple of rookie cop paired with grizzled veteran, with a plot having something to do with a child's promise to his dying brother and a Mexican drug lord disguised as a cat.

But the premise and its various silly digressions are really just the excuse for a machine-gun barrage of verbal and visual jokes, with the operative mode throughout being excess.

Not only does laugh follow tightly upon laugh, but the performance style is uninterruptedly over-the-top. Passion are played full out, reactions and pratfalls are exaggerated to circus clown levels, and no joke is too ancient to be revived.

Of course the reason all this works is that, paradoxically, it is all tightly controlled to a point approaching choreography. A double-take is doubly hilarious because it is timed to the nanosecond, and they work more inventive variations on walking-in-place than you might think possible, while the simple act of taking off a shirt becomes funny when we've seen a dozen different ways of doing it so far.

This show has been touring since 2015, along with a couple of offshoot sequels, and the three writer-performers – Nathan Parkinson, Zachary Hunt and Tom Roe – have managed remarkably to keep the energy level up and the making-it-up-as-they-go-along illusion fresh.

As our 2015 review below suggests, the show has evolved in the past five years, probably through fortuitous discoveries – there are a couple of unscripted moments here, notably a costume malfunction near the end, that I wouldn't be surprised to find incorporated into future performances.

This video version is part of the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe's virtual offerings. Shot during a performance with a single camera and microphone, it has a few fuzzy moments of both picture and sound, but does capture the sense of being there.

Gerald Berkowitz

In 2015 our reviewer said this:

The opening shot is a kid cradling his dying brother in a dark city street with the tearful promise that that he’ll become a police cop, the best. Cue police academy, rookie beat, curmudgeonly partner, the first case. Thrills, spills, betrayal and a father complex ensue in this rollercoaster parody. Will the partners survive the pressure? What new perversion will the station captain reveal? What’s the connection with The Simpsons? And who is the evil Mexican cat? Between them, Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Turner, armed with nothing but enviable stamina and a box or two of manky props, somehow concatenate a thousand 70s police movie/TV plotlines, back stories, through stories and subplots. Milking every cliche in the manual, each spoofed villain, cop or civilian seems to have a troubled past, most sport moustaches and everyone has a hat. You’ve seen this sort of thing a million times before, so what makes this show so special? Well, for a start the writing hits an impressive high as trashy exploitation goes, yet there chugs under it a fully fledged script with a solid arc that allows the trio to develop a gallery of throwaway characters into convincing, plot-driven portrayals while still earning the laughs. They’re a supremely generous ensemble too, putting in supercharged performances with a (possibly unintended) physicality that puts them firmly in Total Theatre territory. And their connection with the audience is unbeatable.  Nick Awde

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Review of  Police Cops - Assembly Edinburgh 2021