LIKE Blood Brothers, Les Misérables and — pre-eminently — The Mousetrap, The Woman in Black has become one of the great cash cows of West End theatre.

Novelist Susan Hill could hardly have guessed as she penned her macabre mystery at her Oxfordshire home 25 years ago how many millions of theatregoers would one day be captivated by her tale.

Ghost stories capable of successful translation to the stage are few and far between, and it was clever of the late Stephen Mallatratt to spot the potential of this one.

His well-crafted adaptation is continuing to spook audiences 19 years into its West End run, while touring productions pack in punters at home and abroad.

The latest is prompting nervous giggles, much hand-holding and eye-shielding and the occasional full-blown scream from packed houses this week at the Playhouse.

I have to confess, though, despite being of a nervous disposition, that I sat utterly unmoved. Perhaps this was because I had seen it so often before.

The story deals with the horrors encountered by a young lawyer on a trip to a seaside village, and to the creepily named Eelmarsh House, to sort out the affairs of a recently deceased old lady.

In a clever, if initially rather time-wasting, framing device, Mr Mallatratt has this intrepid traveller, Arthur Kipps (Sean Baker), acting out the tale much later in his life in a bid to purge from his mind the nightmare scenes he witnessed amid the mist-laden marshes.

Strangely, though, he does not play the part of his younger self. This role goes to an actor (Ben Porter), while Kipps — initially a reluctant performer — is persuaded to play all the other characters in the story himself.

Some of these, alas, turn out to speak in impenetrable — and not always consist — accents. These include the gentleman to whom falls the task of supplying the background to the hauntings.

This means that many audience members will have been leaving the Playhouse this week still puzzled over the motives of the shrouded spectre.