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Review: Gritty Police Drama: A One Man Musical (Soho Theatre)

Updated: Apr 26

Review by Ozbil Dumenci


It’s confession time. I’ve always wanted to go to Edinburgh Fringe, but I’ve never had the chance. So, when I got the opportunity to see Luke Kempner’s Gritty Police Drama: A One Man Musical following its sold-out run in Edinburgh, I jumped on the opportunity. Another confession – right before the show started, I exclaimed to the All That Dazzles team that I wasn’t in a good mood today, and I needed a good laugh. So, as I entered Soho Theatre, the hope was I’d get exactly that.


In this one man show, Kempner promises 60 impressions within 60 minutes while threading it all together with a plot inspired by classic British police dramas. Think Line of Duty. Think Happy Valley. Think Broadchurch.


I’m not one to deny that what Kempner attempts is an ambitious feat. Unfortunately, the show is so densely packed with fleeting moments of celebrity impressions that by the end, they all sort of blend into one another. While writing my notes on the way home, I asked myself which ones my favourite and least favourite impressions were.

When I say I struggled to remember any of them, I mean it. After a good hard think, a particular low for me was Claudia Winkleman (I would die for a strand of her fringe, but that’s beside the point). Some highlights for me, however, were his Donald Trump and Ian McKellen impressions, but one could argue that these were low hanging fruit. Even when Kempner struggles to emulate the mannerisms of his targets, he does hold it all together with iconic pop culture references that the crowd readily laps up.


Throughout all this, interwoven into the plot, are musical moments where Kempner covers songs from popular musicals including Wicked and Phantom in character, as well as a Jeremy Clarkson cover of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”. While Kempner has a brilliant voice and captures the audience, these moments veer towards feeling like karaoke and add to the mild self-indulgence of the show.  


The final product unfortunately feels bloated, with fat that could be easily trimmed. Kempner’s talent as a writer and performer is undeniable, but perhaps he flies too close to the sun and falls just short of reconciling his lofty ambition with a digestible, cohesive piece of entertainment.


Gritty Police Drama plays at Soho Theatre until April 27th




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