OSCAR Wilde’s celebrated comedy The Importance of Being Earnest is, of course, a bona fide classic.

It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that it should appear in the programme of Bard in the Botanics (Glasgow’s annual mini-festival of four plays by Shakespeare and other canonised authors).

Wilde’s most famous drama, this satirical farce (like many by the Man of Stratford) is a comedy of identity. In the play, bluebloods Jack (aka “Earnest”) Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff often leave town to go “Bunburying” (that is to say, pleasure-seeking under false pretences) in the country.

Not only is Jack known as “Earnest” in the country, he is also uncertain of his natural parentage, having been adopted after being abandoned, in a piece of luggage, in the cloakroom at London’s Victoria station.

Jack’s biological provenance becomes a matter of great significance, not only to himself, but also to his beloved Gwendolen Fairfax and her formidable mother (and one of the great monsters of modern theatre) Lady Bracknell.

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The piece is staged in BiB’s outdoor performance space by the festival’s artistic director Gordon Barr. Alfresco theatre is always a risky business in Scotland (as attested by the rain-aborted performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar I attended at the Botanics last month).

It was a great relief, therefore, that Friday’s playing of Earnest suffered only a light shower towards the end and was able to make it to its neatly witty conclusion.

Barr has transposed the play (which made its premiere in London in 1895) from the Victorian era to the Swinging Sixties (thereby giving designer Heather Grace Currie plenty of scope to impress us with a series of fabulous costumes).

Any farce, especially one written as brilliantly as this, requires a near-perfect sense of timing. This production, although played with passion and commitment, sometimes falls short on tempo.

The reason, sadly, is an unevenness in the cast: an occasional inevitability, one feels, given that this often excellent programme is so palpably underfunded. Why BiB does not enjoy the financial backing of arts funding body Creative Scotland is a mystery to me.

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The politics of financial provision to the culture sector notwithstanding, this staging enjoys some fine performances, not least from the always excellent Alan Steele, who drags himself into the role of the hideous (but hilarious) Lady Bracknell with aplomb.

Indeed, the actor delivers his character’s alarmed querying of the discovered location of baby Jack (“a handbag?”) with a pithiness that avoids repeating the famously elongated vowels of Edith Evans in Anthony Asquith’s 1952 film.

The versatile Johnny Panchaud is wonderfully louche and humorous as Lane (Algernon’s manservant) and deliciously daft as the bachelor vicar Reverend Chasuble. There are decent performances from Stephen Arden (Jack), James Boal (Algernon) and Lynsey-Anne Moffat (the governess Miss Prism).

However, Claire Macallister (a rhythmically off Gwendolen) and Éimi Quinn (somewhat brittle as Algernon’s love interest, and Jack’s ward, Cecily Cardew) can’t quite rise to the demands of Wilde’s glorious script.

This is, then, an enjoyable Earnest, but a frustratingly inconsistent one. Until July 29: bardinthebotanics.co.uk