Staging a season of repertory plays is a risky thing for a theatre to do nowadays.

Staging a season of repertory plays is a risky thing for a theatre to do nowadays.

Star names tend to sell tickets and repertory seasons by their very nature feature actors who are not familiar to the audience.

So far the risk seems to be paying off at Windsor’s Theatre Royal. Its season of repertory productions is half over now and attendance figures have not been at all bad.

But the third play in the season this week was always going to be the real test.

September Tide by Daphne Du Maurier is not a farce or a thriller like the first two productions were.

It was first performed in 1948, when it was a vehicle for legendary theatre star Gertrude Lawrence.

Subsequent revivals have tended to rely on a star name in the leading role – that of a middle aged woman called Stella led into temptation when her daughter’s husband falls in love with her.

So how can a 57 year old play about a love affair that never goes anywhere fare in the crazy world of 21st century Britain?

Judging by opening night on Tuesday – rather well.

Du Maurier was after all a best selling novelist with a knack for creating memorable character. She knew exactly how to create a spell on the page, or on the boards.

When saturnine artist Evan and his mother-in-law Stella find themselves left alone in the house with a raging storm outside, there is a real sense that anything could happen. Actually nothing much does, but it does not matter.

A bit of bother in the harbour outside as the sea dislodges a boat briefly suggests Du Maurier’s masterpiece novel Rebecca. When Evan reappeared from the water dripping wet and in need of drying off you could have heard a pin drop in the Theatre Royal.

Don’t giggle, it works. They must have fainted in 1948.

The audience is hooked – wondering what will happen. Will Evan and his wife Cherry’s marriage survive? Will mum-in-law let her hair down?

All achieved without a single star name – thanks to the late, great Miss Du Maurier.

Ellen Verenieks as the warm hearted and lonely Stella brings great charm and vulnerability to the role.

While James Lawrence as ambiguous, charming Evan smoulders powerfully throughout.

Sarah Dungworth as his initially annoying wife Cherry plays her role skilfully, suggesting a warm, likeable person hiding her deeper fears behind ‘attitude’.

Max Reynolds’ direction is detailed and careful – much helped by a convincing austerity set, all peeling wallpaper and comfy, faded sofas.