Last year Vampire Hospital Waiting Room became a stealth hit of the Fringe, a caped cult classic that captured hearts and minds. GhostCop is the follow-up which, though a good send up of buddy cop movies and the Eighties in general, can’t match up to its campy-vampy predecessor.
Pick your favourite 80s flick – it’s in there. Pick your favourite police-related pun – it’s probably in there too.
The action follows Jack Spector, a police officer doomed by nominative determinism when he transfers to a station in Edinburgh, a city in the grips of two evils: gang warfare and Fringe. After his inevitable demise he must team up with almost-retired, lone wolf Dick Morrison to defeat a Godfather of Crime. By the power of every Eighties trope imaginable, they fight crime.
I have to wonder if the team behind the show have ever heard of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). They seem to think the idea of a show about a ghostly detective is ludicrous enough in and of itself (occasionally resting too long on the premise for the laughs) and it might come as a horrible shock to learn that batshit television executives of the seventies did it first. Fortunately, this lot have done it better, treating the idea with the silliness it deserves.
Pick your favourite 80s flick – it’s in there. Pick your favourite police-related pun – it’s probably in there too. There are some excellent jokes as well and some clever writing, especially in parts that subvert expectations. Spector’s wife, for example, is perfectly drawn between pathos and parody, providing belly-laughs with her every appearance.
The haphazard, blisteringly fast staging is fabulous, giving the production just the right level of amateur enthusiasm. It’s just a pity that sometimes the energy drops on stage, or the characters lose their roots; Spector is often too much a straight man, when what’s really called for is a more intense performance – think Patrick Swayze’s haunting angst. I want to laugh at his pain, not feel it. A couple of the plot cul de sacs are for jokes not worth the diversion, although the denouement is exactly what the audience has been waiting for.
GhostCop is a thoroughly enjoyable experience that still feels like it’s riding on the coattails – or capetails – of last year’s show. It needs just a little fine-tuning to pull more smart, original commentary from the parody and make a proper non-stop thriller of a show.