I'VE always liked gothic horror as a genre, ever since being fascinated/petrified by a very old film of The Cat and the Canary as a child (my gran would let me stay up late and watch 'unsuitable' TV when she was the babysitter).

Daphne du Maurier brought the art form back to mass popularity in the 1950s, and this adaptation, by author Joseph O'Connor, in Bath this week at the start of a national tour, reminds you of how good it is when done as well as this.

Our hero is Philip, a rather naive and sheltered young man, who is initially distraught by the death abroad of his beloved guardian Ambrose, and suspicious of his new wife, now widow, Rachel. So far, so pedestrian.....but when the lady turns up unexpectedly, however, he falls for her fast and deep - and the drama really begins.

I wasn't sure if the term 'cousin' was the literal truth, a politeness of 19th century society or Victorian idiom. The adaptation keeps the setting of the 1800s original, complete with charmingly elaborate and impractical female costumes (Poldark has lots to answer for) and quaint turns of phrase.

The rest of the plot follows a reasonably familiar route, with a very satisfying final twist. In O'Connor's hands it is much more than just a thriller, and leads the audience down some interesting lines of thought, touching on love, guilt, duty and the role of women in society then and now.

Comic moments come from some waspish, almost Austenesque, dialogue which I don't recall from the book - or perhaps it was there all the time and it takes a good adaptation to bring it to the fore. I also liked the Shakespearean-style servant comedy double act.

The set, light and sound design, by Richard Kent, David Plater and Max Pappenheim, is astounding, with a revolving stage, light and sound effects bringing the haunting sound of the sea and the mists of Cornish moors beautifully to life.

Helen George, as Rachel, holds the eye and ear and explores the depths of character well; former heartthrob Simon Shepherd is beginning to corner the market in patriarchal figures; Aruham Galieva as Louise relished the chance to reveal her lovely singing voice in a touching Christmas scene.

The cast includes several young actors and Jack Holden played Philip with conviction, except perhaps in the final scene, where I felt a bit more pathos wouldn't have gone amiss - but I'm an old romantic.

Alison Phillips