Octopus Soup!

Belgrade Theatre Coventry


Many a great British farce requires the removal of trousers and this is where this one starts – signalling quite accurately that this one is the usual turned on its head.

Seymour Norse (Nick Hancock) a dyed-in-the-wool insurance man on a rocky career path is inexplicably married to Gloria, a neurotic actress (Carolyn Blackhouse) and ‘visited’ by bungling, butter-fingered burglar Marvin Hayes (Paul Bradley).

Seymour has been waiting for two years for an important two-way Skype call to Virginia Whale (Gillian Bevan) global CEO of GIT insurance agency, to seal a deal with a masterfully dull Powerpoint presentation about traffic lights, the Catholic Church, icebergs and goats that will save his career. As an audience, we should be grateful to Marvin’s beautifully timed interruption that we didn’t have to endure it too!

There is a lot to enjoy including Marvin’s wonderfully witty Malapropisms, the frenetic activity on the stage as Gloria arrives home and misunderstands the situation and simply won’t listen. She’s up for a part that’s Vera in all but name and we follow the twists and turns of her anxiety and anguish as it seems to slip from her grasp. She practices her Newcastle accent with fervour as it looks like a goner, ‘She’s gone Method!’ remarks Seymour.

So, where, I hear you ask, does the octopus come in? Terry the octopus is in Marvin’s boot as he burgles hapless Seymour. Brought in from the cold, seasoned escapologist, he has as many lives as a cat. But Marvin loves him as a good friend – and definitely is not in favour of octopus soup, appetiser at the feast.

I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second – a disorganised dinner party with shouting guests from Hell including Alan an underworld boss (Eric Richard) to discuss an algorithm for the insurance industry that’s a real, if dodgy, money-spinner.

A top global company CEO is dressed in Dorothy Perkins, I think not, let’s get a proper frock…get Nick Hancock some Sanderson’s Throat Specific asap because he’s going to need it. And while you’re at it, let Paul Bradley, the best comic actor on stage, have something to do to ameliorate the second half. Farces that go beyond the usual subject matter are really hard to do, and this one doesn’t quite make it.

Produced by Simon Fielder and The Belgrade Theatre, written by Jack Milner and Mark Stevenson and directed by Joe Harmston, soup will be served to 16-02-19

Jane Howard


Octopus Soup will be on the menu at Malvern Theatres 15-20 April

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