In a delightful fusion of comedy and musical theatre, three talented actors and writers; Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Roe, bring a new version of their hit show, Police Cops The Musical, to London.
Fresh from a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, this dynamic trio is gearing up to take London’s Southwark Playhouse by storm. I had the privilege of sitting down with Zachary, Nathan and Tom to explore the origins of their show, discuss its transformation into a musical, and learn about their plans for the London run.
The story of Police Cops began at East 15 drama school, where Zachary, Nathan and Tom were all part of the Contemporary Theatre course. They quickly discovered their comedic chemistry during a clowning project, prompting them to break off from the rest of the group to create their own show in a small rehearsal room.
Their irreverent approach might not have made them popular with their classmates, but it laid the foundation for something unique. Nathan says, ” We initially began by performing silly scenes, attempting to parody films”.
Tom recalls, “it actually all started as a simple idea for one scene; a young cop convincing an old cop to come out of retirement.”
As they expanded on this concept, the show evolved into a parody of ’80s action movies, complete with American accents. Zachary says, “We really enjoy action movies and grew up watching all these American classics, so the accents came really easily because we were obsessed with TV when we were younger.”
Coming out of drama school the three friends decided to keep working on Police Cops. With several versions running in London, the show’s homage to ’80s cinema connected with audiences of all ages and became a hit.
The first versions of Police Cops, and its two spin-offs weren’t conceived as musicals. However, with Zachary and Nathan being huge musical theatre fans, they thought there might be something in adapting the play.” Tom admits that he wasn’t initially a fan of musicals, “but I have a newfound respect for the genre through doing Police Cops, everyone has to work so hard, but the end result is spectacular.”
Police Cops The Musical opened the show up to a new set of fans, and another successful Edinburgh Fringe run garnered rave reviews and a dedicated following. “I think maybe it’s our unique comedic voice, combining comedy and musical theatre that resonates with audiences who may not be well-versed in either genre,” says Nathan.
After multiple versions of the show, the trio decided to commission a new score, Zachary acknowledges that while the initial music was good, they needed someone with more experience to guide them. He emphasises, “We needed someone who could tell us what to do rather than the other way around.”
So, Police Cops embarked on a search for the right composer. Their quest led them to Ben Adams, best known for his work with the band A1 and recent Eurovision appearances as Subwoolfer, as well as being a respected composer. Zachary explains the decision, saying, “We went to see his musical Eugenius! and we just thought the music in it was brilliant, it also was set in the 80’s and his style just ticked all of our boxes.”
Collaborating with Ben Adams presented some challenges, as Ben is now based in Norway, Nathan says, “we were writing an 80’s musical but our collaboration was very 2023! It involved many virtual meetings, concept sharing via email, and remarkably fast songwriting.”
“That’s the thing about Ben,” adds Tom, “he’s such a musical genius. He’s just a hit maker. We’d have an idea for a song or a concept, and three hours later he’d have sent us back a demo, I have no idea how he manages to work so quickly.”
Police Cops The Musical is undoubtedly adored by fans, but it presents a set of challenges for its cast. The show involves multi-rolling, with characters seamlessly transitioning between roles. Zachary, notes that he’s on stage for almost the entire running time, “but the rest of the cast faces quick changes and intricate movements backstage. I think I’ve got it tough because I’ve got to sneak in drinking water during the show, but these guys are non-stop for the whole thing too.”
Nathan emphasises that the show’s length is a new challenge. “It’s longer than any show we’ve ever done before,” he says, highlighting the need for physical fitness to maintain the high-energy performances they’re known for.
“At our first performance in Edinburgh, we realised we’d put quite a physical scene after a big song, and we just didn’t have any breath left,” Tom laughs, “we had to do a quick rewrite before the next performance!”
Transitioning between singing and dialogue isn’t easy, Zachary points out, “The switch between singing and talking on stage is quite weird for your voice. It’s a testament to the physical and vocal demands of musical theatre.”
As they prepare for their London run at Southwark Playhouse, the team is making some exciting changes. While keeping the Edinburgh cast (Creators Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Roe are joined by Melinda Orengo and Natassia Bustamante and the cast is completed by Mychele Lebrun and Ben Lancaster), they’ll be introducing a live band, adding new songs, and experimenting with a new stage floor, “it’s grey instead of black,” laughs Tom, “but yeah, the set is going to look wicked.”
“I’m excited about some of the songs we’ve added since Edinburgh,” says Zachary, “some of them were meant to be there, but because of time constraints at Fringe we had to cut them, so it will be great to have them back in.”
As we chat, Zachary, Nathan and Tom are about to go on stage for their final performance of Police Cops The Musical at Edinburgh Fringe, they concede that it’s been a gruelling month, “but we’re so excited about bringing the show to London next,” says Nathan, who goes on to say, that their style of comedy offers a respite from the complexities of the world. He notes, “Sometimes people want just something silly and stupid, just to kind of have a laugh for an hour and a half and not think about anything too political.”
Zachary adds that their comedic approach to theatre has attracted younger audiences too, he explains, “You don’t have to have been going to the theatre your whole life to just come in and have a good time, that’s the great thing about our show, it’s really accessible and it truly does have something for everyone.”
Zachary, Nathan and Tom’s passion for creating laughter and entertainment that transcends genres and welcomes audiences of all backgrounds to share in the joy of live performance is just one of the many reasons Police Cops The Musical has become such a success, “we’re delighted that people love it so much,” says Tom, “and we owe so much to our enthusiastic fans who have given us so much support.”
Police Cops The Musical, starring Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Roe is at Southwark Playhouse Borough 8th September to 14th October 2023.