The lights dim in The Lion and Unicorn’s tiny pub theatre and a Watchdogs-documentary-style video starts playing, projected onto the back wall of the space. Police detectives DC Coates and DC Cooper are on the pursuit of two criminals. The two are like a gender swapped version of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz, Cooper is a hard and uptight London detective with a short temper while Coates is dim, useless and endearing… and she’s from Somerset. They find the suspects’ flat, and chase them, eventually losing them in a futile car chase. The video stops playing and the two detectives emerge from the wings. What has just unfolded is meant as a ‘learn-from-the-best’ training video since the audience are training to be… Police officers…? Apparently…? It’s all a bit unclear…
The majority of the first part of the performance is set in a Police Academy 101-esque training session, where we’re taken through Coates and Cooper’s top tips for how to be police officers. We’re given workplace-oriented quips, and a bunch of double-entendres as the two detective’s personalities clash, ruining the training session. Eventually, the show is hijacked by two kidnappers, also played by Coates and Cooper (not the police ones, but the real ones…Well, the police ones are the real ones… two cast members, four characters… you figure it out.) The Kidnappers are gross,
moustache-clad, Eastend crooks, donned with matching red tracksuits and farmer’s caps. Now it’s time for Kidnapping 101.
Each section of the show is broken up into smaller sections that all use a different theatrical convention; creating a kidnapping van through the use of props such as handheld torches and a steering wheel, while a pre-recorded video projection serves as a window into the trunk. Although the piece is eclectic in its methods of storytelling, all the different elements struggle to merge. The rhythm of speech varies greatly between each performer which makes much of what is said hard to follow. Coates’ loud and in-your-face witticisms are fast and rapid, and make much of the other information on stage rather hard to compute. Coates works primarily as a stand-up comedian and this performance style carries through to what she delivers in Kidnap, whereas Cooper comes across as more of an actor. Having two significantly different styles of performance on stage could be a catalyst for some interesting material however the matter is never addressed or acknowledged.
This is what currently holds back Kidnap, the theatrical language has yet to be discovered, parts of the piece need a bit of trimming and shaping, and the juicy parts of the show need to be found and focused on. The issue is with how Kidnap ties its parts together, but some of the parts are still bloody marvellous. The characterisations of the two kidnappers are charmingly funny in a colloquial, familiar way – like having The Chuckle Brothers for grandparents, but with more crime – and the use of video is inventive in its ability to create new spaces. It’s just a shame that this humour and inventiveness aren’t able to develop throughout the piece. Although it is well-rehearsed, with crisp and satisfying precision, it’s as if the better parts of the piece have been kidnapped by the worse parts.