The great character actress Stephanie Cole is on brilliant form at the Playhouse this week in a gripping production of Peter Nichols's 1979 West End hit Born in the Gardens.

So, too, are the three fine players who share the stage with her in this unusual and quirky play, revived by Theatre Royal Bath Productions under director Stephen Unwin.

Their efforts make for a most rewarding evening of theatre, in which moments of rumbustious comedy sit side by side with some often uncomfortable reflections on family life.

The setting is the panelled drawing room of a mock-Tudor house in Mr Nichols's home city of Bristol (he now lives in North Oxford).

In one corner, in an open coffin, lies the body of former cleaning magnate Victor, whose funeral is the next day.

Of more interest to his widow Maud, however, are activities on her malfunctioning black-and-white television.

The set offers vision only, which is no bad thing, since the batty old dear conducts a non-stop conversation with everyone on screen. She really wouldn't want them to answer back.

This is only one of the peculiarities of this richly comic woman. Another is the unshakeable belief that her home is infested with mites, the chief concentration being in her hair.

This curly barnet, she proudly informs us, is in "aphrodisiac" style, one of the delicious malapropisms that Ms Cole delivers in suitably dead-pan style. Later, we shall hear her speak of different types of American property, duplexes and condominiums, as "Durexes" and "condoms".

Her befuddled mental state is no doubt due, not a little, to the succession of lethally strong cocktails prepared for her, and for himself, by her son Maurice (Allan Corduner). It is with considerable relish that she asks for a "Slow Comfortable Screw".

Maurice is the stay-at-home son, who divides his time between his rare - for which read smutty - book business, his jazz 78s and dancing attention on mum.

He is the character to whom the play's title refers, a parallel being drawn between his 'imprisonment' and that of Bristol Zoo's long-living gorilla Alfred, born in the (zoo) gardens.

Soon joining in preparations for the funeral are twin sister Queenie (Miranda Foster), a journalist, hotfoot from her home in the US, and his MP elder brother Hedley (the Peak Practice star Simon Shepherd).

That Maud is shown to have no clue which party Hedley represents - he's Labour - is perhaps stretching the audience's credibility a little far.

One wondered, too, how likely would have been the sexual passion depicted between the twins - but this certainly provides a shock to leaven the laughter.