OCTOPUS SOUP sets itself in the here and now as Nick Hancock’s insurance consultant Seymour attempts to present his pitch for fiscal liquidity to highly strung and corporate big-wig boss of G.I.T Insurance Virginia (Gillian Bevan).

Interrupted in his preparation by less–than-adept burglar Marvin (Paul Bradley), Seymour desperately clings to the hope that if he can only get through his death by Powerpoint he will seal the deal, but Marvin has a better idea.

Borrowing a premise from Mel Brooks’ The Producers, he begins to tempt Seymour into realising that you can make more money melding crime with honest accounting – or in this case, knowing in advance where to insure against burglary and where to avoid.

Slapstick physical comedy is kept to a minimum, instead relying on multi-layered word play and misdirection. The introduction of Seymour’s highly strung and somewhat neurotic wife Gloria (Carolyn Backhouse) adds an extra level of distraction but needs a little more work – at times it is confusing to understand where Gloria actually fits into the crime caper (or why she doesn’t) but her Sunderland accent is very funny indeed.

The second act introduces Marvin’s crime boss, the threatening Alan played by Eric Richard who obviously draws on all the London crims he had to play opposite during his 17 years as Sergeant Bob Cryer in The Bill.

There could be some funny interactions between Alan and Virginia, especially as neither initially know what the other does for a living but this just doesn’t quite land (yet).

For two thirds of the show the pace is somewhat deliberate, yet sadly, the pay-off feels a little rushed; not in the sense of the delivery, but in the writing, as if the final third was squeezed in to meet time – elements which play a major part at the end have not been hinted at earlier, leaving a few puzzled looks and a sense of ‘almost but not quite’.

That said, this is most certainly a work in progress and there is far more to enjoy than to criticise – as the run continues I am sure there will be further tweaking which will only serve to enhance and increase the laughter and I will certainly be looking to see it again in a few months’ time.

Until Saturday. Tickets darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk/Box Office 01325 405405

Andrew Bramfitt