Police Cops: The Musical at Southwark Playhouse Borough – review

The comedy group comes together for the hit musical

Tom Roe & Zachary Hunt, © Pamela Raith
Tom Roe & Zachary Hunt, © Pamela Raith

If you’re a child of the 80s and grew up with the likes of Bruce Willis in Die Hard and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon then you’ll be on familiar territory as you step into this wildly funny yet reverently created musical that is a laugh out loud pastiche of bad 80’s cop films. There isn’t a single stereotype missed out as this brilliantly inventive company power at full throttle to reduce the audience into fits of laughter.

Police Cops are a trio of writers and performers that have been making waves at the Edinburgh Fringe for a number of years. Now this transfer of their newest show, Police Cops: The Musical, sees them developing their cannon with new music, a live band and an expanded company, all with terrific results. Much like SplitLip’s Operation Mincemeat, that spent much of its infancy in this same venue (and before then at the New Diorama in north London) before its triumphant West End run, this is comedy work in its gestation that deserves to reach a much larger audience.

Zachary Hunt’s energetically muscled (apparently it compensates for being short) Jimmy Johnson is a rookie cop that is determined to right the wrongs of the world following the death of his beloved sister (a firecracker Natassia Bustamante). His hopes and dreams as an “Ameri-Can and not an Ameri-Can’t” are sung in comic anthemic style set to Ben Adams’s (channelling his best Eugenius! work) gloriously retro sounding score.

Jimmy is determined to bring Nathan Parkinson’s sleazy Mexican drug lord Hernandez to justice and needs a partner to help him in the shape of Tom Roe’s disgraced ex-cop, Harrison. Despite always being taught never to trust a Mexican, there is an inevitable love interest (an hilariously sardonic Melinda Orengo) that teaches Jimmy the lessons of tolerance and acceptance and he soon realises that these are Mexi-Cans and not Mexi-Can’ts – this might not be sophisticated humour, but is executed with complete panache.

Adams’s score moves through 80s rock to hoedowns and power ballads. Hunt, Parkinson and Roe’s book and lyrics are nonsensical and bullishly funny – providing endlessly entertaining material for the cast of five to bounce off. Anyone that can squeeze Schwarzenegger into a song is a winner in my book!  This is the ’80s – the cops are corrupt, the Mexican’s are bad and “it’s still OK to make gay jokes” and this dazzling quintet exploit every sinew of comedy from it all.

Matt Cole provides some wildly witty and inventive choreography with some of the funniest visual routines I’ve ever seen. An homage to Mexico in the shape of one-man puppet wrestling is hysterical and a floating bar room table is completely inspired.

It’s a riotous love letter to the movies of the ’80s and an absurd comedy that sits amongst the likes of Airplane and The Naked Gun – definitely very good company. It’s an absolute blast!

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Police Cops The Musical

Closed: 23 December 2021

Police Cops The Musical

Final performance: 14 October 2023