So, Toronto. We need to talk about The Pretend Men‘s Police Cops in Space at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Specifically, why you shouldn’t even bother reading this review and just go see it, pronto. I mean, I’m going to write you a review anyway, but you can just go ahead and buy a ticket to this hysterical, outrageous, madcap hurricane of a show now and rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
But alright, details.
When Sammy Johnson (Nathan Parkinson) witnesses his father being killed by an evil robot (Tom Roe), he unknowingly finds himself on the wrong end of both a prophecy and a promise: that he will become, or maybe already is, the best damn Police Cop ever… in space. Joined by alien space ace Ranger (Zachary Hunt) and a whole host of quirky characters (played by all three in rotation), Sammy embarks on an adventure to avenge his father’s death and save the world while he’s at it.
Described by the company as ‘low-fi sci-fi’, the following hour or so is a whirlwind ride through dozens of characters and intergalactic action plot set-pieces, some of which involve the main characters learning how to dance, others involving light-up motorcycles, jump ropes, and slow-mo fistfights.
This is zany, relentless, exhilarating fun from minute one, the sort of theatrical equivalent to a car chase on top of a train chase on top of a helicopter chase (somehow). I laughed until my sides hurt, until my entire face was aching from it. If you’re into Sex T-Rex, you’ll find a lot to love here in the high energy, outrageously committed stagecraft and choreography, and effortless, playful charisma of the three leads. It all moves along at a rocketing pace, and it doesn’t wait for you to keep up, either.
The nature of Mooney on Theatre’s wild promise to review every single show by opening weekend meant that I was seeing a preview, and as such, there were some snags on the technical side of things that I feel compelled to acknowledge. Still, Parkinson, Roe and Hunt were so quick on their feet at bouncing back from a late music cue or adapting to a flubbed lighting change that it almost felt like part of the fun.
That fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants energy permeates every moment of the show in the best way, so while I’m sure this will get ironed out, it didn’t actually detract any from my enjoyment of the show (and, again, preview). By the end of it, though, I just plain ol’ wanted more.
Once in a while being a reviewer is the easiest job in the world. Look, go see this show. Fill the theatre. Get up on your feet to applaud at the end, like a polite citizen of the world. You won’t regret it.
- Police Cops in Space plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Mature language; Gunshots; Sexual content; Nudity.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 10:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 5:45 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 1:15 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 4:45 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 7:00 pm
- Friday July 13th, 4:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 5:45 pm
Photo of Nathan Parkinson (left) and Zachary Hunt (right) by Guy J Sanders.