Within the first few minutes of Police Cops, you'll have a pretty good idea that you're in for a breakneck ride. Almost before we're properly settled in our seats, we've heard the sound of the ol' harmonica, witnessed an overwrought death scene, and met a man on a mission to fulfil his late brother's wish by becoming the "best damn police cop ever". What follows is a 60-minute riot of action – cheerfully drawing on every seventies-movie cliché imaginable, and performed by three men with loud check trousers and an utterly gratuitous amount of exposed chest hair.
It's impossible to characterise Police Cops' comic style, because it's every style simultaneously. Wisecracking, slapstick, surrealism: almost any funny device you've ever seen is packed in there somewhere, amplified and exaggerated to the point of self-parody. And the benefit of cramming in so much is that there's something for everybody; even if only one in every three jokes really works for you, that's still more than enough to keep you laughing the whole way through.
Make no mistake though, under the frenetic surface lies a well-rehearsed and tightly-managed production. The accents are terrible, but they never drift; the physical performance is energetic and almost flawless. On the night I attended, one brave throw-and-catch routine triggered a spontaneous (and thoroughly justified) round of applause. Much of the comedy turns on the obvious rapport between the three performers – or on the inherent humour of doing something completely unexpected, even if that's just using a massive brush to sweep a chair off the stage.
If there's a fault to be found, it's that the creativity doesn't quite last for the whole of the performance. Towards the end, some of the comedy tropes they've already used come back for another outing, and they obviously don't feel anywhere near as fresh or surprising the second time around. Perhaps there's room for a couple more tender moments – there is some genuine poignancy waiting to be explored – or perhaps such a fast-paced piece would simply be better at 50 minutes rather than the regulation hour.
Overall though, there's almost nothing to dislike about Police Cops. I'm a theatre guy through and through, but there are times when even I want to put my brain into neutral for an hour… and as a hilarious, laugh-a-minute alternative to late-evening stand-up, this was the ideal way to finish off my day at the Fringe.