Review by Harry Bower
What do a character called ‘Bum Bum Man’, a naked Action Man figurine, vampires, the devil, a snickers bar, and the city of Manchester all have in common? You guessed it! Or, actually, you probably didn’t. They’re all key components of Police Cops’ show playing at VAULT Festival until 19 February.
I’ll cut to the chase; Badass be thy Name is one of the very best pieces of fringe theatre I have ever seen. From minute one it is an absolute triumph in comedy writing, the sixty minutes flying by in a fit of laughter and disbelief at the slapstick and often surreal events taking place on the stage.
It's Manchester 1999, and Tommy Dixon is working a boring telesales job. He wants something more from life, and so in a moment of madness decides to quit. It is from this familiar and relatable base that the show launches into its main narrative, as we follow Father Badass, a priest turned vampire hunter on his quest to defeat the leader of the vampires, the Devil (obviously).
The story is told in such a gloriously bonkers way that it is impossible to predict what will come next, and the cast keep the storytelling mechanics fresh by mixing it up with inventive and clever methods which I will keep under my hat so as not to spoil them for anyone who may see this recurring show in the future.
There is seemingly accidental brilliance by design in every tiny moment here, with hilariously shoddy and inexpensive props used ingeniously, pop culture references smattered throughout, and a healthy dose of self-awareness for good measure. Some might suggest the relatively frequent corpsing in the piece is either entirely scripted or entirely improvised; I tend to lean more towards somewhere in the middle, and this is no bad thing. It adds to the overall feeling that the cast is enjoying performing the show just as much as the audience is enjoying watching it.
Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Roe make up the acclaimed London-based comedy group which is Police Cops. The three are assured and charming in their delivery style and so high-energy that I needed a lie down after just watching them. Swapping outfits regularly to transform into many different characters, each brings their own brand of charisma and comic timing to the table which means there is never a problem trying to identify who is playing who at each stage.
If you look at Badass be thy Name in an objective way, it may appear the show is making the best of a low budget and that its improvised props and lack of material set is borne out of necessity. That may very well be true, but for Police Cops to make this look entirely intentional and for it to result in huge success is a genuinely impressive achievement. The same can be said for the sound and lighting design which is suitably erratic but incredibly effective.
The sheer stupidity of the humour in this show is akin to The Mighty Boosh or Shaun of the Dead but even mentioning those inspirations is almost doing Police Cops a disservice. They have crafted their own wacky, goofy and hilarious style and their own brand of surrealism so well, that I struggled to draw parallels with anything else I’ve seen in the past year at least, and probably longer.
I left Badass be thy Name with my cheeks hurting from smiling and laughing and in many ways that is its biggest endorsement. It is unadulterated and unapologetic fun packaged with physical comedy, wit, intelligence, stupidity, and puns galore. In me, Police Cops have their new biggest fan. I can’t wait to see what they have to show in their other productions. This show is a must-see for anyone exploring VAULT festival this week.
Police Cops: Badass be thy Name will be slaying vampires at VAULT Festival until Sunday 19 February 2023. Tickets available here: https://vaultfestival.com/events/police-cops-badass-be-thy-name/