Review by Carly Fisher
This being my first Edinburgh Fringe, I must admit, I had not yet heard of the Police Cops trio though my research since seeing the show proves to me that this group has become somewhat of an institution here in Edinburgh…how lucky am I that someone recommended that I see this show then whilst we were chatting in line for another show.
Police Cops: the Musical is not typically the kind of show I am drawn to - it’s silly, over-the-top and a musical that prioritises comedy over vocal chops…not usually my style. However, when a show is executed this well, it quickly becomes everyone’s style and the packed theatre at Studio One of the Assembly George Square Studios made that very apparent.
The show is a very deliberate pastiche on the 1980s cop culture in America. Set in 1985, the musical follows Rookie Police Cop Jimmy Johnson on his quest to fulfil his and his late sister’s dream to become the best police cop in the world. The cast of 5 take on all the side-characters and misfits around Jimmy - the corrupt chief, the retired renegade partner, the undercover cops, the teachers, the drama buddies, the villain, the disinterested charity workers, the Nutcracker, hell, even the bullet itself! What these five actors achieve in an hour and 25 mins is remarkable and their talents permeate through the ridiculousness of the scenarios they keep finding themselves in.
My absolute favourite part of the show was the ingenious use of props and costumes. Any performer who has worked with me will know that I love a prop, and this show offered so much ingenuity, so much skill and so much wit through their props that I was truly dazzled. Most of the props are intentionally made to look low budget, haphazard if you will, and therefore, though many of the props show off an inventiveness too scarcely seen in the independent theatre sector, the whole show still looks completely deliberately made for fringe. The props usage is a mile a minute and each one was used with such skill by the performers, the prop choreography executed with precision. I haven’t seen a show, irrespective of its budget, achieve so much with such otherwise simple items in a long time. Extremely impressive.
The songs are not the memorable part of this musical - there are some good ones, mainly ‘Now You’re an 80s Cop’ and there are some others that could be cut down slightly, but really, the show is about what happens around the songs. I believe that this is the first musical the troupe have attempted and it was definitely fun to watch - I am sure that they will have great success with the show, even if they are not all clearly singers. Somehow, it doesn’t even matter in this show. In much the same way that the show intends to poke fun at the police force and the 80s, it too has a little fun with the musical theatre genre, offering some fun in-jokes throughout. The original music follows the golden musical theatre formula for success in that it carries the right tropes at the right times and offers a clever mixture of bops and ballads. It is certainly entertaining.
As well as adding music for the first time, two additional cast members were added into the show for the first time too to give us a great Ensemble. And a true ensemble they were - no weak link, no stand out - each had their own moment truly to shine and with 4/5 playing multiple characters, everyone had a stand out role as well.
Though many, particularly through drama schools, will have you believe that one should never ‘crack’ on stage, one of the highlights for me was watching the performers sincerely laugh at one another, totally cracking through a scene, but reminding us of why they started this in the first place - to have fun! It made the entire cast so relatable and so likeable, and was also an excellent reminder that though there is a definite script and clear plot line, there is also room deliberately left for improvisation as well, and those moments are consistently hilarious. Tom Roe’s improvisations were hilarious and watching Nathan Parkinson react to them was equally as funny. They look like a group of friends first and foremost and it makes us, as audiences, even more keen to support this group to success.
Zachary Hunt is excellent as the protagonist, Jimmy, and maintains his cheek, his energy and also his star quality throughout. Parkinson plays the duplicitous Malloy/Hernandez, as well as the bullet - a character that seems really to delight the audience. Beyond Roe’s hilarious improvising, he also offers great execution to the rest of the show as Harrison and a large number of other characters.
Expanding the trio for this show, Miztli Rose as Billy/Gonzalez and Gabriella Leon as Rosa are excellent. Their supreme characterisation, matched with strong accent work and some good vocals, make them delightful to watch. This ensemble does not stop for a minute whilst on stage - they work hard for their 90 minute show and hide behind nothing.
I really didn’t know what I was in for when I headed into this show - as I said, my attendance was the result of some word of mouth spread by an audience member - and I’m glad I didn’t because the idea of it being ‘silly’ may have prevented me from going. And that would have been totally my loss.
Everyone needs to see a show once in a while that does not take itself seriously, and yet, is executed perfectly and this show really achieves both.
I look forward to seeing what the group brings next year to the Fringe. Whatever it is, I will certainly see it.