Canoeing For Beginners, Customs House, South Shields

LOOSELY based on the case of 'missing' canoeist John Darwin and wife Anne, this well-written farce looks certain to be a hit.

David Whitaker, one of the region's finest stage actors plays Frank, while the always-excellent Pat Dunn plays Beryl – South Shields shop owners who have hit hard times and decide the only way out is for Frank to stage his own death and for Beryl to claim the life insurance.

Laura Norton and Gary Kitching are their children, who have been kept in the dark about the plan.

Laura is superb as foul-mouthed Carol, though Gary took some warming up as her childish, nerdy brother Keith.

The cast is completed by Chris Connel as the suspicious family liaison officer Sergeant Watts.

Connel has a very real and urgent stage presence, and helps to inject the piece with pace – something it lacks in key scenes.

The first half delivers plenty of laughs and surprises – the drunken scene between Gary and Sgt Watts is a particular joy – but is 10 minutes too long.

The second half is set in a Frank and Beryl's Cuban hotel room and is pacier with more laughs and a few surprises.

Yeaman's follow-up to Lucky Numbers will provide a great night of entertainment for those fortunate enough to get tickets.