One of Britain’s most revered actors plays one of theatre’s most iconic roles with David Suchet starring as Lady bracknell in Oscar Wild’s timeless and popular comedy of errors THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.
After a short UK tour the production, directed by Adrian Noble settled in to the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End late last month for a five-month residency.
While known for his TV roles, especially as Agatha Christie’s fastidious detective Hercule Poirot, he is no stranger to treading the boards and has been nominated for no less than seven prestigious Olivier Awards and a Tony for his Broadway portrayal of Salieri in AMADEUS.
The man most famed for his pencil moustache and distinctly male attire is now decked out as a very Victorian lady. The formidable, biting character of Lady Augusta Bracknell represents Wilde’s opinion on Victorian upper-class negativity-conservative, repressive, powerful and arrogant. Famous ‘Lady Bracknells’ have included Dame Judi Dench and Penelope Keith, but in the past few years the role has also been played by men. Geoffrey Rush in Australia and Brian Bedford in Stratford, Ontario and Broadway. “I’m trying to become the best woman I can”, said David in a recent interview, although “the character almost defies gender really”.
The Guardian critic Michael Billington called David’s performance “majestically funny” and said “As Lady Bracknell, Suchet does not so much enter a room as occupy it totally”.
There’s a large poster of David as Lady B outside the Vaudeville’s stage door, where many gather after each show. I joined them after last Saturday’s evening performance. It’s on a busy thoroughfare with lots of traffic-vechicles and pedestrians. Many passing by would comment on the poster, ‘oh there’s what’s his face…Poirot!” He’s still recognisable even in a drag. David is the nicest man (and woman) you could ever wish to meet. He doesn’t come to the stage door, but remains in the foyer area and you are invited in to meet him, take selfies, get sigs and have a brief chat. He loved this sketch and as usual was more than happy to sign it.