BOWNESS Theatre Festival just wouldn't be the same without its annual helping of Alan Ayckbourn.

Arguably, the greatest playwright of his time, he has given his 79th play Confusions a major dusting down and sent it off on tour with his latest piece of ingeniously written theatre, Hero’s Welcome.

From Tuesday, November 3, until Saturday, November 14, Sir Alan's Stephen Joseph Theatre - now in its 60th anniversary year - performs both plays on varying dates at the Old Laundry theatre.

His 1974 hit Confusions has become one of the most popular and studied new plays of the last 40 years. Human frailty is laid bare as one hilarious situation after another unfolds.

Hero’s Welcome has been receiving five-star reviews and plenty of praise following its world premiere in summer at Scarborough, and is currently on a national tour.

It tells of Murray, who 17 years ago fled the neighbourhood under somewhat of a cloud. Certain local folk have long memories, not least Alice, the mayor, whom he left standing at the altar. Once the welcome flags have stopped waving and the town band has ceased playing, few of his friends seem particularly happy to see him back.

Murray’s declared intention of staying put and settling down with his new bride threatens to stir up all sorts of old rivalries and resentments. Suddenly the couple, in search of peace, find themselves once more in the firing line.

Alan Ayckbourn explained that Hero’s Welcome was about the prodigal son, Murray, coming back to his home town. He added: "It explores the male rivalry between Murray and an old friend, Brad, who is fiercely competitive and will go to any lengths to win.”

The tour sees Stephen Billington and Emma Manton mark their debut with the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Stephen is well known for his television roles playing Coronation Street villain Greg Kelly and recently Danny Lomax in Hollyoaks. His theatre credits include The Crucible at York Theatre Royal and in film he has worked with directors Franco Zeffirelli, Peter Greenaway and Mel Gibson.

Emma appeared last year with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won. She has performed at the National Theatre and in Nicholas Nickleby at Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End. Television roles include Emma in Ricky Gervais’ BBC series The Office.

SJT company veterans Russell Dixon and Richard Stacey will be familiar faces to audiences and they return following, most recently, Roundelay and the 2013 internationally acclaimed Arrivals and Departures and Time Of My Life. They are also joined by Elizabeth Boag who made her company debut in Arrivals and Departures and Farcicals and returned last year in the national tour of Roundelay.

The cast also appear in Hero’s Welcome, with a sixth company member, Terenia Edwards, who has been winning over the critics in her first professional role since graduating from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama in summer.

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