POLITICAL sleaze is anything but a modern invention and in Oscar Wilde there is no one better to extract every ounce of humour out of dishonesty and double dealing.

An Ideal Husband becomes another Wilde play to enjoy a run at the Malvern Theatres, following Lady Windermere's Fan last summer and The Importance of Being Earnest in 1999.

Sir Peter Hall's production includes the talents of Barbara Murray and one of the great names of British stage and cinema, Richard Todd.

The play's durability is not lost on Mr Todd, who played Lord Goring in a 1965 Wilde revival and now takes the role of the Earl of Caversham.

"It's a wonderful play. To my mind it's Oscar Wilde's best, it's so topical. It's about sleazy politicians, it's really tremendous," he said, "It's full of wit and humour, typical of Wilde, but true to what's happening today."

Mr Todd became an actor almost by accident, joining a London drama school in the 1930s to learn about the theatre in order to become a playwright. After the war he rejoined the Dundee Rep, which he had helped to found in 1938, and in 1948 made his film debut in For Them That Trespass.

His next film project was The Hasty Heart, for which he won an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe. He followed it with films like Robin Hood, Rob Roy, Yangtse Incident and The Dam Busters, the latter perhaps his best known role as 633 Squadron commander Guy Gibson.

"It's probably the most memorable to English people and certainly a very fine film, a classic, probably one of the best war films ever made," he said.

Awarded the OBE in 1993, his work now is largely in theatre, touring both home and abroad in plays as diverse as Brideshead Revisited, A Murder is Announced and Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.

An Ideal Husband opens at the Festival Theatre on Monday, March 26, and runs until Saturday, March 31.

Performances are at 8pm with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets range from £12 to £20, from the box office on 01684 892277.