The Hostry Festival, one of Norfolk’s most enduring independent arts events, is back with a swing.

This year’s central theatre production, performed In The Hostry Building at Norwich Cathedral, is a great night out that leaves a delicious, but decidedly bitter, aftertaste.

Written for a post-war audience by Jean Anouilh, Ring Round the Moon has a fairy tale sense of escapism that sets out to charm.

The action takes place outdoors in the winter gardens of a grand chateau.

Paul Stimpson’s design has white filigree colonnades and elegant garden furniture with twinkly lights. It is a shamelessly theatrical setting.

And what takes place is all artifice. The central character Hugo (Adam Edwards) has decided to unmask the hypocrisy of his upper class friends in a party they will never forget.

He asks a local actress, Isabelle (Cathy Sole) to pretend to be the rich and eligible niece of a local toff and then works his wiles to make sure they are all captivated.

His plan is to reveal her true identity in a coup de théâtre that will lay bare the vanity and shallowness of all present.

But things don’t turn out as he had hoped, and the sting in this play’s tail isn’t that the upper classes get taken to task, but that they don’t.

Despite Hugo’s best efforts, the story ends happily and the rich just go on getting richer.

Stash Kirkbride directs with a brisk hand, keeping the action tickling along, and it’s wonderful to see a play that contains so many good roles for women.

Susan Seddon as Hugo’s aunt Madam Desmortes is delightfully disparaging; Alexandra Evans as her beleaguered companion is gloriously downtrodden and Laura Landamore as the wild femme fatale is terrifyingly voracious.

Anouilh’s rarely performed work was one of a quartet of dazzling plays: or pièces brillantes.

The wit is certainly flashy: but the world depicted is icy as a diamond; its emptiness, haunting.

Tickets cost from £12 at