It’s not very often at the Fringe that I make a beeline for a show based purely on how good the poster looks. The Pretend Men’s Police Cops in Space was an exception to the rule and I was not disappointed. With a poster and title that bombastic, I hoped for something self-consciously silly. What the three young actors delivered was just that and so much more.
Set in the distant future, Police Cops in Space follows the tale of orphaned police cop-in-waiting Jack O’Connell, his plucky pilot sidekick, Ranger, and their fight against the malicious robot organisation FutureTech. Riffing on a number of classic sci-fi tropes, without ever becoming insufferably referential, the show remarkably managed to retain its own identity and importance as a narrative, without becoming unnecessarily parodic. Granted, there a direct call-outs to The Terminator, Star Wars, Die Hard and many others, though the show’s most spiritual influence would probably be Guardians of the Galaxy. This is due to the rag-tag group of characters we meet, the show’s technicolour glow and the use of some brilliantly chosen songs to soundtrack the most hilarious training montage sequences I’ve ever seen onstage. These ranged from a spiral into alcoholism set to Radiohead’s ‘Jigsaw Falling into Place’, a dance initiation to ‘Uptown Girl’ and a final air-punching face-off to The Hives’ ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’.
The three actors also displayed wonderful flexibility and dexterity in their many roles, playing them without absolute conviction while lending some moments a semi-improvised air, with each trying to outdo each other in verbosity and make the others laugh, which happened on a number of occasions to the audience’s delight. Standout moments included the way the company recreated elaborate sci-fi graphics with the simplest of props, including a version of ‘the jump to lightspeed’ from Star Wars, achieved by dimming the lights and having two actors rapidly swing two phosphorescent skipping ropes while the other ran through them in slow motion. Equally impressive was the use of strobe lighting at the climax to create a real sense of jeopardy amidst the comedy.
Police Cops in Space may sound silly but its unlike anything else you’ll see at the Fringe. For an hour of pure theatrical escapism and sci-fi indulgence, nothing can top this. The three performers and their extraordinary range of talents are worth the price of admission alone. Simply unmissable.
Pleasance Dome – Jack Dome, 7th – 27th August, 19:00