STAGE REVIEW: Octopus Soup - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Monday, April 15 to Saturday, April 20, 2019.

THE best advice that can be offered is to skip the starter and try to find something on the menu of considerably more substance.

There are plenty of ingredients thrown into this world premiere of a brand new British farce but somewhere along the line they haven’t mixed well.

Unfortunately Jack Milner and Mark Stevenson’s offering is out of its depth with a far too complex recipe which heads off in so many different directions it’s neither one thing or the other!

Basically it’s big business entwined, to a degree, with a bungling buffoon of a burglar! Nick Hancock’s insurance consultant Seymour finding himself inveigled into a spot of skulduggery, a scam dreamed up by Paul Bradley’s language-mangling Marvin Haynes after surprising him in mid-robbery.

It attempts to serve up some of the best traditions of British farce as insurance boss Virginia (Gillian Bevan), Seymour’s hyper-wife (Carolyn Backhouse) and Marvin’s psychopathic boss (Eric Richard) are also drawn into the cunning plan.

Not so marvellous Marvin, having been caught in the act of house-breaking, simply has no ‘ethics’ - which is where he says he is from, and is one of the few lines to raise more than a slight titter from a sparse audience.

Farces, by their very nature, are expected to provide and provoke a hearty belly-laugh at regular intervals. There should be a vein of reality too running in tandem with absurd events but, as Marvin described his pet octopus as having arms, not tentacles, this hadn’t a leg to stand on.

The five on stage do their best with the script but there is little empathy or attraction to any. There’s plenty of action mixed in with a degree of physicality, and if there is any bright spot it’s Anthony Lamble’s well constructed set which revealed the realism of the interior of a Home Counties bungalow.

The ending itself was also confusing, if not bemusing. Was there any reasoning behind the seasoning?

Thank goodness - running at just over two hours including its interval, it was all over before 10pm.