Period pieces seem to be ten a penny this year, with over-literal renderings of classic novels showing a dissapointing tendency to go awry.

But the first ever staging of Henry James' Daisy Miller, directed by the Olivier and BAFTA award-winner Christopher Morahan, looks set to be an artistic success.

For starters, there's no danger of the lead failing to master the heroine's troublesome American accent. As EastEnders' Vicki Fowler, Scarlett Johnson kept it up for two years - until, that is, the soap gods decreed she should switch overnight from yankee drawl to Watford cockney, a decision which let her in for much mockery amongst the tabloids.

"To be honest, I don't know why they did that," says the young actor. "I guess it was to show my character had become fully immersed in the London way of life but it did make me look pretty stupid."

No longer a "puppet to the producers' needs", Johnson has, since last autumn, been pursuing a stage career which already includes La Boheme at the Royal Albert Hall, Under Milkwood at the National and an acclaimed run as the lead in a Stratford production of Romeo And Juliet.

And now she is undertaking her UK touring debut as James' Daisy Miller, a woman whose youthful high spirits and American directness clash with 19th-Century continental etiquette.

Travelling in Switzerland, young writer Winterbourne (Neighbours and Home And Away's Richard Grieve) is immediately drawn to the frank and flighty Daisy. But an invitation to meet her again in Rome is spoilt by Daisy's insistence on keeping company with the charismatic Italian lawyer Mr Giovanelli.

As disdain about her recklessness with men resonates around aristocratic circles, Winterbourne is confronted with a tragedy which will haunt him forever.

"It's a rite of passage tale about a 19-year-old girl who doesn't conform to the etiquette of the time," explains Johnson. "She is on a great tour of Europe and it's all about her relationship with her family and one particular man - and, ultimately, what she teaches them all.

I think what I like most about playing Daisy is her quick-wittedness - people assume she's ignorant when she's actually plain-speaking. She's a girl who'll call an alpenstock a pole."

Also starring Bread actress Jean Boht and Alfie and Shirley Valentine favourite Shirley Anne Field, Dawn Keeler's new adaptation will take you from the shores of Lake Geneva to the lavish vistas of Rome and is, Johnson testifies, "an absolutely beautiful production".

"Having said that though," she laughs, "I'm just having my wig fitted and at the moment it looks like I'm wearing a dead squirrel - a dead red squirrel. But I'm sure it'll be alright on the night."