Cops at Southwark Playhouse

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COPS is a play about 5 cops of all different races, ages and backgrounds. Promising ‘razor sharp dialogue’ and a character driven blend of comedy and drama, I entered the Southwark Playhouse with high hopes.

The opening is fairly lacklustre, and in general the whole play was lacking in content. The hard-hitting moments delivered really very well, but the comedy wasn’t enough to provide any kind of running dynamic. The plot was, at times, predictable – including probably the biggest plot point of the show. The dialogue was not razor sharp, instead only delivering much slower paced, and fairly basic banter.

It’s very difficult to walk the line between finding the comedy in the everyday, and losing the audience’s interest – in my opinion it didn’t walk that line, give or take a few running jokes, and therefore lost my interest somewhere in the second half. For a character driven play, only two of the characters were remotely likeable, and the pace was so slow, I even stopped caring about them at some points. Essentially, the characters weren’t massively compelling, and other than one or two lovely moments of character development, there wasn’t a massive journey for them to go on.

On the flip side, the fight choreography was lovely from those who could perform it well, and the set was well designed and thought out – it really felt like being a fly on the wall in an everyday 50s office, and again on the stakeouts. Although, and this is a pet peeve of mine, there must have been a dozen cigarettes lit and stumped out within 2 seconds.

It was lovely to see COPS capture the commonplace sexism and racism of the 50s perfectly – the audience audibly reacted to certain lines, and the atmosphere following the Race Riots from many years ago was still abundantly clear. Occasionally, the comedy did shine through – there were a few big laughs from the audience and the comments from Stan about going back to ‘the good old days’ were perfectly timed and topically poignant.

There was some solid acting from all cast members, especially in each character’s monologue where the cast definitely came into their own. Although, conversationally, the pick-ups in dialogue being faster would definitely have helped contribute to the ‘razor sharp dialogue’ we were promised.

It could easily be a lovely play, but the slow pace and lack of content meant I left the theatre slightly drowsed rather than excited about the production I was expecting.

By Mims Melville

Cops is running at Southwark Playhouse until 1st February 2020. To find out more and buy tickets visit their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Shackleton and His Stowaway at Park Theatre, Curtains and The Bodyguard.

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