The Pretendmen’s sell out Edinburgh Fringe show graced The Lowry for a single rain-sodden evening. An hour long show of madcap physical theatre transported the audience from Salford to even meaner inner-city streets, bypassing the Old Retired Police Cop Bar, and out into the wilds of Mexico on the hunt for an elusive cartel leader and drug baron, Hernandez.
The trio of actors, Nathan Parkinson, Zachary Hunt, and Tom Turner, all assume multiple roles throughout the show, changing in front of the audience in the wings on the stage, and losing a good few pints of sweat over the course of the hour. Their props and costumes may be minimal, the use of a two-fingered glove as a gun for example, however, they do not distract the audience. Instead, they showcase the sheer imagination that is at the heart of Police Cops.
Jimmy Johnson, played with an inordinate amount of energy by Hunt, starts as an innocent child playing catch with his brother, who offers to adopt Jimmy when their dad eventually dies, but is soon thrown headlong into the real world when his brother is shot, multiple times, in front of his eyes. “Be the best police cop ever… ever… ever…” are the last words Jimmy hears from his brother, and set him on a course to become the last name in law enforcement.
This perhaps is all that is needed to say about the plot; the show eschews any notion of a three-act structure, instead choosing to lampoon every possible trope and cliché of the crime-fighting genre. If you can imagine Starsky and Hutch crossed with Police Academy, with Naked Gun thrown into the mix, then you get a clearer picture of Police Cops. The latent homoerotic bromance between the new boy and the retired detective, Lieutenant Harrison, played with glee by Turner, is established within a matter of minutes of them meeting. The surprise villain should have been seen from a mile away, yet their unmasking is still as bizarre and hilarious as you could hope for, and the obligatory montage takes place, topless, on horseback, in the Texan sun, with all the barn-raising bonding imaginable.
The three actors start at a hundred percent and hardly let up throughout. They hurl themselves and each other around the stage in tightly synchronised choreography: leaping, twisting and vaulting to incorporate a range of gunfights and explosions. With the cast being so small, you would expect them to run into difficulties portraying such a wide variety of characters, both main and secondary, however they overcome this with aplomb. Wigs, dolls and even a dodgy accent are enough to convince the audience of their characters, a testament to the engaging nature of the show.
The Pretendmen are on a national tour until the end of 2016 — check out their Twitter and Facebook pages for dates and venues, and remember: “It’s not how good you become, it’s how good you’re going to became.”
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