Badass Be Thy Name is the latest offering from the boys that brought us the Police Cops series, the high-octane comedic shows that mash genres with all the fun and vim of a 90s DJ - whilst still maintaining a linear storyline. Police Cops and Police Cops In Space have landed well with both audiences and critics, in both Brighton and in Edinburgh… so there's no small amount of pressure on Badass Be Thy Name on what we later discover is its inaugural performance.
We open with the scene being set: a secret pill developed by scientists to make one man more than any man can be. Already it's affectionately borrowing from all manner of Marvel origin stories. That man has a son, whom he leaves as an infant, to grow up to become a Manchester call centre operative with a regular ordinary life… until it is rudely interrupted one night out clubbing by the presence of a vampire, and a vampire-killer hot on his heels.
This is the tip of the tale that takes us to the very depths of Hell, the Devil's conspiracy, familial disappointment, song and dance numbers, and sword fights. It’s all delivered with the most minimal of set and costume, leaving us with a highly enjoyable balance of enthusiasm and ingenuity kept level by drama-school training. It adds up to a show that the writer-performers clearly revel in, without tipping into the dangerous waters of self-indulgence.
The fact that this is Badass Be They Name’s first outing explains a few flaws and rough edges within the show. The odd corpsing during a surprising childhood tale of 'Teddyland' gives away that the actors are not yet familiar enough with the twists and turns to not be surprised or amused by one another's flights of fancy. There was even one aside of: “This will be better when I feel more confident doing this,” as faux-comedy seductive song and move fell a bit flat. But the density of ideas and details, jokes peppered with the discipline of an American sitcom writers’ room, assure us that even if there's a kink somewhere - like a stuffed kitten's elastic unexpectedly breaking - it won't be long before another idea that succeeds eclipses the memory.
Badass Be Thy Name is fun, for both its audience and its players. It’s relentlessly fun. Compared to last year's Police Cops In Space it's a tad gappy or flabby, but for a first outing it certainly hit the target board it was aiming for. With a little more refinement, it looks set to repeat its predecessor's achievements of having audiences gasping for breath between laughs… and tuning in once again for father-son estrangements which seem a lot less messy and a lot more entertaining.