FRANCIS Durbridge, best known for the hugely popular Paul Temple mysteries, kept turning out smartly plotted thrillers for more than half a century.

The  Small Hours was one of the last and it must have seemed distinctly old-fashioned even when first produced in 1991 – but it’s no less entertaining for that.

Carl Houston (Al Wadlan) has become a hero after rescuing a fellow passenger on a plane that was hijacked and set on fire. But when he returns to the Chichester hotel he runs with his wife, he realises he has become mixed up in something he doesn’t comprehend.

First, a police inspector (Neil James) arrives and with suspicions about the reasons for Carl’s trip to Australia. Then, the passenger he rescued (Joseph Prestwich) turns up to warn him that he is in terrible danger.

This is the kind of thriller where criminals pursue rare jewels, where canny Scotland Yard inspectors conduct interviews in Sussex drawing rooms, and where heroes and villains pit their wits against each other before resorting to the revolver.

The action moves along rapidly, with six scenes in the first act alone, and the London Repertory Players perform it at quite a lick. Director Vernon Thompson's production keeps the audience engrossed and never gives them time to quibble with the plot. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable night at the theatre.

It runs until Saturday, and the same cast are rehearsing Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels, opening next week.