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PUBLISHED: 10:25 23 February 2001 | UPDATED: 15:03 22 October 2010

Easy Virtue @ Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. By Christopher Smith.

Easy Virtue @ Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

By Christopher Smith

The stag's antlers, virtually the sole ornament in Jason Ions' austerely stylish set, say a lot. Noel Coward's masterly drama of manners may be set in the 1920s, but old standards still count – like so many trophies bought home in an earlier era.

First exceedingly elegant in black with dazzle-pattern stripes, then daring in harem pants, Zanna Foley-Davies' Larita comes with mystery and gradually assumes control before making a grand exit. Her white gown gives the lie to conventional judgements, and she pronounces, in a velvety deep-voiced foreign accent, truths that do not fit an English country house.

Oonagh Segrave-Daly puts venom into the role as a mother who knows why she must not give in.

Resplendent in tweed plus fours and more relaxed in manner as well as attitude, David Newham tries to keep the peace in the early scenes.

The pert Brigid James and the rather stiff Gail Stanley make a well-contrasted pair of sisters for Tom Freeland, who neatly captures the nature of the ineffectual John.

Music, costumes and off-stage sound effects, even if oddly the score is not called in the tennis match, help build atmosphere in Clare Goddard's production.

So do a pair of electricians straight from the silent movies. Occasionally the long phrases come across without the right intonation as if read off a teleprompter.

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