Photo: Pamela Raith

The Police Cops brand has evolved over the last few years with multiple iterations, but the 2023 edition – which has just spent a month in Edinburgh at the Fringe, and has now opened in London at the Southwark Playhouse – is the first musical version. The show has been created by Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Roe, who have written the book and lyrics, and who also co-direct and star in the show, with music by Ben Adams. Ben, of A1 fame, has previously written the songs for the musical Eugenius, which we reviewed earlier this year. Musically the shows are similar, full of big ‘80s rock anthems and power ballads.

For those unfamiliar with the Police Cops concept, it’s heavily inspired by 1980s cop shows and action movies. This musical tells the story of Jimmy Johnson (Zachary Hunt), who sets out on a quest to become ‘the best police cop ever’; over the course of two hours we see his tale unfold, involving a corrupt police chief, a Mexican drugs baron and a former high-school flame who is now a nursery nurse, but who also harbours aspirations to become a cop. Melinda Orengo and Natassia Bustamente star in the show, alongside the three writers, with each actor taking on multiple roles throughout.

Frankly it’s completely absurd – we haven’t see a show this silly or chaotic in quite some time. It does feel somewhat all over the place – some of the choreography looks pretty scrappy, on occasion there’s a sense that it might fall apart – yet they somehow keep things on track and the result is really a lot of fun. There’s a fair bit of audience participation (buy a ticket on the front row at your peril) and singing along and clapping is actively encouraged. The sense of humour is unsubtle and often takes aim at the attitudes of the time, calling out the casual racism, homophobia and misogyny which was deemed acceptable 40 years ago.

We weren’t quite sure what to make of Police Cops: The Musical. On the one hand it’s all rather silly and good fun, and the songs are pretty catchy. On the other it does feel a bit too messy and chaotic at times. We’re all for shows – especially those that have come from the Fringe – not to be as slick and polished as their West End competition, but this seems a little too shambolic on occasion. It’s certainly an entertaining and high-energy evening, but on balance we thought there was room for improvement.

GAY TIMES gives Police Cops: The Musical – 3/5

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