Octopus Soup!/Malvern Theatres

I FELT sorry for the octopus. Not so much because of the implied cruelty of caging such an intelligent creature in a small glass tank, rather the fact that no sentient animal should be subjected to such a barrage of theatrical clichés.

All right, fear ye not. The octopus wasn’t any more real than an implausible script that sank like a stone, presumably to the depths of the ocean where it would have joined our hapless cephalopod had it not been a prisoner in the aforesaid receptacle.

Mind you, it could be argued that the marine theme was all rather appropriate, because this Belgrade Theatre Coventry production is pure slapstick, end-of-the-pier stuff that masks a weak plot riddled with laboured malapropisms and a hysterically delivered dialogue that only further serves to expose the play’s shortcomings.

Seymour Norse (Nick Hancock) is an insurance consultant desperate to clinch the deal of a working lifetime. He disturbs a burglar (Paul Bradley) ransacking his home and improbably decides to team up with him to embark on a decidedly dodgy enterprise.

He then has to sell it to his section head (Gillian Bevan), and despite being a tough cookie, she swallows it hook, line and sinker.

Things can only get sillier. And, oh yes, they most certainly do…

Completing this ménage of misfits is Seymour’s ludicrous actress wife (Carolyn Backhouse) who milks the luvvie stereotype until the udders start to shudder.

But the biggest mystery with regard to Octopus Soup! is its homage to that thankfully long-dead species the 1960s and 70s television sit-com, rekindling ghastly memories of such small screen stinkers as Terry and June, Hugh and I and Are You Being Served?

Worst of all, the cameo appearance of the octopus minus glass tank, attached to Ms Bevan’s head in a tragically unfunny scene, merely underlines how desperate the whole thing has become in its dying moments.

Octopus Soup! is staged at Malvern Theatres until Saturday (April 20).

John Phillpott