Brandon Thomas's hugely funny farce Charley's Aunt returns in triumph - after too long away - to the university city within whose hallowed halls and cloisters its silly-ass antics are set.

Once a staple of Oxford's theatrical diet, the play has not been seen in a major production here since 1992, when Mark Curry slipped into drag for the title role. This marked the centenary of the London opening night on which The Times' critic reported: "It's enough to make a cat laugh."

A flavour of that occasion is provided in Jonathan Fensom's excellent design for the Oxford Playhouse's splendid, homegrown revival under director Timothy Sheader.

The comic action is framed throughout in an imitation of the proscenium arch of the Royalty Theatre, Soho, where Charley's Aunt was first seen in the capital.

It went on to enjoy a four-year run, during the course of which London's theatregoers were also relishing Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest - which was last summer's Oxford Playhouse hit.

Like that of Earnest, the plot of Charley's Aunt is built on a massive deception practised in the cause of romance. Undergraduates Jack Chesney (Charlie Walker-Wise) and Charles Wykeham (Leon Williams) hit on a splendid wheeze to spend time with their respective girlfriends Kitty Verdun (Emma Callander) and Amy Spettigue (Dulcie Lewis) by inviting them to a luncheon - supplied by Jack's put-upon scout Brassett (Russell Dixon) - to meet Charley's aunt, Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez.

Alas, this millionaire widow from Brazil is obliged to jack at the last minute, threatening a tryst only made possible in those strait-laced times by her chaperoning presence. How fortunate, then, that the lads' undergraduate pal Lord Fancourt Babberley should be in the very act of trying on his togs for the part of an old lady he will shortly be playing in some student theatricals . . .

Pressed into service to impersonate the missing aunt, Babberley seizes on the role with conviction and increasing authority. As brilliantly portrayed by Nick Caldecott we see him practising vamping camperies on two prospective fortune-hunting suitors - Amy's splenetic dad Stephen Spettigue (Christopher Good), and Jack's hard-up, good-sort father Sir Francis Chesney (Patrick Ryecart). Meanwhile, to Jack and Charley's fury, he is enjoying all-girls-together intimacies with Kitty and Amy. The glorious deception threatens to explode in their faces, however, with the arrival of the real Donna Lucia (Christina Greatrex) and her charming young companion Ela (Ellie Beaven).

I didn't spot any cats among the first-night audience. But if there were some present, I am sure they were laughing - as we all were - fit to bust.