HEARD the one about the comedian who decided to get back to a love of acting?

Toby Hadoke is one of the country's most in-demand stand-ups having toured three one-man shows, played in the West End and is the regular compere for three top comedy clubs.

But next week, he will be in Blackburn, in a very different role - in John Godber's April in Paris which runs for three nights at the Thwaites Empire Theatre.

The play is a two-hander in which Toby plays Al, an out of work builder, and Sarah Burrill is his wife, Bet. She's an avid competition fan and wins the pair of them a break in Paris.

"They are living this humdrum existence when she wins the holiday," said Sarah. "Their relationship has stagnated really but the break is a chance for them to get to know each other and rekindle the romance."

Toby, who runs the XS Malarkey comedy club in Manchester, made a conscious decision to get back into acting with this play.

"I realised in December last year I'd been a professional comedian for 21 years," he said, "which is a long time seeing as I got into it by mistake. But time flies when you don't know what you are doing!

"Comedy is meritocracy so if you're half decent you'll get work and I've always been able to get work thank goodness but I've always been an actor at heart.

"I've kept my hand in doing radio but I'd sort of lost sight of it.

"I've toured three one man shows, I've taken them to the West End and on to the radio but I missed acting with other people which is what I was supposed to be doing 21 years ago but forgot."

Sarah, who also runs the Little Diamond Theatre Company, which is staging the play, said Toby was a delight to work with.

"It would be a total disservice to think he's only here for the comedy," she said. "He's a really good actor and can do the tender stuff equally well. It's a great contrast. He's a joy to work with."

Toby said that quality of the writing was one thing which attracted him to the play.

"John Godber has this knack of appearing to make things look deceptively simple," he said. "He's very spare in his writing and what looks like a throwaway line actually has a lot to it when you consider it.

"The play and its themes are surprisingly relevant seeing it was written in 1992.

"Al is very much a broken man at the start of the play - it's a brilliant portrait."

April in Paris is both moving and very funny and, Sarah, said, is a play which will resonate with everyone in the audience.

Toby, used to performing alone on stage, has had to adapt to the extra discipline required for theatre.

"When I'm compering I usually make it up anyway," he said. "But with this, if I make a mistake I'm landing Sarah in it. So I have to be much more disciplined.

"You can't be quite so blase about things when other people are relying on you."

April in Paris, Thwaites Empire Theatre, Blackburn, Tuesday, March 21 to Thursday, March 23. Details from 01254 685500