This Noel Coward drawing room farce is light and entertaining, and its mocking of the slut/stud double standard is still depressingly relevant, even after nearly 90 years.

Lisa Chappell and Claire Dougan star as women behaving badly, remembering pre-marital affairs and anticipating possible extra-marital ones. They enjoy life - lustily singing, drinking, eating, arguing and talking about sex. Such unapologetic gusto is great to see.

The diverting script provides more situational and physical comedy than one-liners. Amusement is found in contrast: "I should like to shake you until your eyes dropped out!" says one upper class, immaculately dressed woman to another, at once childish, wild and grand.

Coward doesn't differentiate between the women, and a subplot about what the men get up to is unresolved, but he cleverly avoids the cliche of nasty husbands. The women's yearning for illicit excitement to make them "terribly happy and extremely miserable" is felt in tandem with their spousal love.


Tracy Grant Lord's set is fabulously sumptuous, and the women's "deep evening" dresses are breathtaking, although elsewhere anachronistic costuming - particularly the men's shoes - looks cheap.

Delivery overall was clear if slightly straight and timid (it should warm up over the next week). Stephen Lovatt is wonderfully comic as the quintessential outraged English gentleman.

I wish Auckland Theatre Company would stop with the boring opening-night speeches before we're allowed to leave our seats - so provincial - but it's pleasing they're varying their season openers, and this year are offering something which laughs at society's hypocrisy, rather than at its victims. They've been rewarded with such high ticket sales that the Fallen Angels run has been extended. Lots of fun.

Theatre review
What: Fallen Angels
When: Until March 15
Where: Q Theatre, Queen St