REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until June 6.

Just as you’d expect, David Suchet is a superb Lady Bracknell.

The manner, the movement, the looks, the intonation, the bearing… all are a joy even if they never quite answer the fundamental question: why would a chap want to be Lady Bracknell?

But Suchet clearly does – and does it quite brilliantly in a performance which deserved rather more from a rather muted Tuesday night audience in Southampton.

Matching Suchet every step of the way, however, and certainly the night’s revelation was Imogen Doel as a delightfully-batty Cecily. Playing the country girl as completely round the twist, she punctured much of the theorising the play tends to inspire. Is Earnest Victorian slang for gay? Is the whole thing really some kind of reflection of the secret life poor old Oscar was forced to lead?

No, it probably isn’t. It’s simply a bonkers evening of brilliant fun and brilliant bons mot, sparkling wit oozing from a script which seems like a book of quotations at every turn.

Adrian Noble’s production isn’t without its miscalculations. The over-enthusiastic snogging, for instance. And some very strange gestures.

But there’s no doubting the cast do the play justice for a wonderful evening of the English language at its finest. Philip Cumbus and Michael Benz give us Algernon and Worthing with impressive fluency, and Michele Dotrice is the perfect Prism.

Phil Hewitt