While Patrick Hamilton’s excellent novels provide an uncomfortably accurate picture of life as it was led (by rackety characters such as himself at least) in the first half of the last century, his much-better-known stage plays, Rope and Gaslight, possess plots that stretch credibility to breaking point and beyond. They remain first-class entertainment, however, as professional revivals demonstrated to my satisfaction two years ago – Rope at the Watermill Theatre, Gaslight at the Old Vic.

I can pay no more generous compliment to Oxford’s Tomahawk Theatre Company for their production last week of Gaslight than to say I found it fully the match of the Old Vic’s. The performances were all of high quality, and especially those of Susanne Sheehy, in her role as the much-put-upon Bella Manningham, and Robert Booth as the (entirely misnamed) Sgt Rough, who is able to put an end to her misery.

Though written in the late 1930s (partly in Oxford), the play – essentially a Victorian melodrama – harks back to a period 50 years earlier. Poor Mrs Manningham, as may be recalled, has had the misfortune to marry a grade-one cad – worse, a murdering burglar. The setting is the very house where his crime was committed: Manningham (played in suitably oily style by Alex Nicholls) has returned to continue his hunt for precious rubies he failed to find after battering their owner to death 20 years before. The dimming of the gaslight, a spooky feature of the play, signals his secret searching of the upstairs rooms, his turning on of the lights there having caused a drop in gas pressure throughout the house. As part of a dastardly plan to get his missus out of the way for good, he has meanwhile been hiding things about the place, leading her to believe that she has lost them and is slowly going mad.

All this is gradually brought to her attention by the inspector, who gets a relishably over-the-top performance from Mr Booth in fruity upper-crust tones that fail to disguise (those dropped aitches!) his true social standing. Then Mrs M. shows astonishing self-possession, which makes one marvel at her earlier submissiveness. A feisty woman like her would certainly not be pushed around, as she has been, by a cocky minx of a servant such as Nancy (Jennifer Rae, pictured with her above).

n There is a further performance of Gaslight tonight at the Kenton Theatre in Henley-on-Thames. Box office 01491 575698.