Forget Spaceballs, there is a new sci-fi comedy champion in town. This sold-out show from lauded comedy trio The Pretend Men, explodes onto the stage and doesn’t slow down until the final moment. A lovable sci-fi spoof, loaded with references and parodies, this performance is genuinely delightful.
It’s a Saturday morning cartoon ramped up to ludicrous speed
In a galaxy far, far away, an old recluse called Sammi Johnson stumbles upon a mischievous youth and his robot companion. He tells them that long ago he was once fated to be the best damn police cop…....in space. Sammi, the closest thing this performance may get to a ‘straight man’, tells us how he defeated the evil robot that killed his father. We then blast into flashbacks as our actors (Nathan Parkinson, Zachary Hunt and Tom Roe) transition from scene to scene, finding more ridiculous stage exits and entrances as time passes. The choreography is genuinely impressive - we are graced with musical montages, dance scenes and slo-mo fights that work wonderfully with the strobe lighting and 80s music. While there were some prop malfunctions and pauses, the improvisational skill of The Pretend Men allows them to recover and make that cheesy-budget-sci-fi-tone work all the better.
Using only the most basic props and costume design, The Pretend Men create the perfect B-movie experience. Sammi mounts his 'rad' space bike by sitting on one of his actors as the bike holds out two glow sticks and spins them. Somehow, this looks better than the Tron Light Cycles did back in 1982. Their usage of props is ingenious throughout, and you can clearly see the actors love every ridiculous prop and costume as much as the audience. A silver swimming cap makes them a robot, a glove with two fingers missing becomes a gun. It's simple, it's funny, and it succeeds.
A common critique of wall-to-wall comedies is that fatigue sets in after a while. However, with the show set at a breezy one hour it never outstays its welcome and its style can thrive. You don’t have to be a die-hard Trekkie or Star Wars fan to enjoy this production, but there may be a few more smiles on the faces of those who love the likes of Terminator. It isn't particularly plot-heavy and I wouldn't say anyone felt emotionally invested, but that isn't really the point.
I laughed as much at this as I have at any professional stand-up or comedy film. It’s a Saturday morning cartoon ramped up to ludicrous speed. I would challenge you to find anything more ridiculous, hilarious and downright fun at the Brighton Fringe this year.