Nude with Violin

CHRISTOPHER SMITH The Assembly House, Norwich


The Assembly House, Norwich

Careful now, don't let the title of this play deceive you. But even if Noel Coward does like leading us up the garden path, that means there is even more to enjoy as we go astray.

Liberatingly, politically incorrect, unbelieving when it comes to modern art and theatrically a hoot from one end to the other, this comedy comes to hilarious life in Peter James's production for the Great Hall Players.

They use the arena style, performing with the audience on all four sides of the space that becomes a drawing room in Paris, complete with a chaise longue.

Vernon Brooks as the butler Sebastian seems confident, even smug. Not without good reason either. Nothing will get past him as he controls everything.

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Add a distraught family. A famed artist has died, and the problem is sorting out his legacy, financially and artistically, which raises quite a few issues. His wife Isobel (Myra Burgess) and his children (Matthew Pinkerton and Anna Wakefield) are faced with problems they never expected. The distinguished art historian Jacob (Kerry Cant) tries to help but soon has to give in. The ground just crumbles beneath his critical feet. That's not surprising - figures from the past keep bobbing up, with strange messages and even odder demands.

Coward creates situations, never misses a quip, and even at the end suggests he has a thought in his mind as well as a talent to amuse. Grand entertainment this, and we see it from an unusual angle.

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