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Police Cops In Space at Brighton Fringe

“The biggest Arts Festival in Britain”, as the publicity has it, has just opened at Caravanserai in Brighton which, as the name suggests, is an open-air area surrounded by caravans just north of St Peter’s Church with stalls selling drinks and street food. When I visited, even early in the evening it was heaving with people waiting to see the opening act of this year’s Fringe: Police Cops In Space, which first visited in 2018 and has now been seen “across the globe”.

Police Cops In SpaceThe Police Cops themselves are Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson, and Tom Roe, known as The Pretend Men, all specialising in physical comedy and extremely low-budget theatre (you could not get any lower). Parody and satire are centred at the heart of their productions which, if Police Cops in Space is anything to go by, are very zany, combining ridiculous plots with music, circus skills and dancing.

This “low-fi sci-fi” show is set in the most dangerous place on earth: space! Just in case you see Police Cops but cannot work out the plot, it concerns the last Police Cop in the universe who is killed by an evil robot. His son, Sammy Johnson, teams up with alien fighter pilot Ranger and his trusty Cyborg C9 as they embark on an intergalactic adventure across the galaxy to find Earth, avenge his father and become the ‘best damn Police Cop in space’. I know this because I am lucky enough to have read the press release, but do not worry if you get confused!

The three ‘actors’ play many different roles, occasionally with quite complex costume changes. Most of the characters are based around Hollywood film archetypes and the recognition of such personalities is a key part of the enjoyment of the show. Most impressive is the precise choreography, even when the cast just appears to be “mucking around”. The trust that each has in the others is evident and illustrates that this is a thoroughly rehearsed and very well-considered piece of theatre. Props are kept to a minimum, and when they are used heighten the comedy, such as the ‘mop’ routine and the ‘Uptown Girl’ song.

This is physical storytelling at its very best, with most of the laughs coming thick and fast. Police Cops is performed in the Big Top in Caravanserai, seating about 200 mostly on raked seating, but of course, this type of venue is by no means soundproof, hence my only complaint is that the continuous music being played outside the Big Top is so loud that for much of the time it makes much of Police Cops unintelligible and very difficult to follow. The cast themselves commented on this publicly during the show I saw: the music they were using was swamped by the ‘noise’ outside. Surely, seeing that everything is under the umbrella of Brighton Fringe, the outdoor music could at least be played at a much lower volume level for the duration of the show. I was lucky – by chance I had placed myself as far away as possible from the distraction!

Overall, though, a hugely enjoyable hour from three highly talented performers and a great start to this year’s Brighton Fringe. Recommended!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

PRESENT DAY (of 1976). Straight-laced rookie Police Cop Jimmy Johnson is out to avenge his brother’s death, and he’s got to go it alone! (with his partner) Teamed up with a disgraced, retired renegade named Harrison, the pair begin to unearth the soily secrets that the case holds. POLICE COPS is a cinematic joyride, speeding down Adventure Avenue in a souped-up squad car. Oh, and did I mention…the steering wheel is made out of guns.

5 MAY – 4 JUNE 2023

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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