As previously tipped (See The Goss, 10 May 2004), Matthew Kelly will return to the stage this autumn after his Olivier Award-winning success earlier this year (See News, 23 Feb 2004). He’ll star in a new production of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1980 comedy Season's Greetings, which opens at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on 4 October 2004 before continuing, until 11 December, to eight further venues.

His win of this year’s Best Actor Olivier, for his performance as gentle giant Lennie in the Birmingham Rep production of Jonathan Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, completed a remarkable comeback for Kelly, previously best known as the presenter of TV game show Stars in Their Eyes. His arrest in January 2003, following accusations of child sex abuse dating from the 1970s, generated outraged newspaper headlines. But the claims were unfounded and police dropped their charges the following month.

Despite the controversy at the time, Kelly honoured his commitments to Of Mice and Men which launched – on schedule - a three-month UK-wide tour in February 2003. Last October, the production transferred for a limited season at the West End’s Savoy Theatre. Kelly’s other stage credits have included Kafka’s Dick, Twelfth Night, Blue Remembered Hills and Peter Pan.

In Season's Greetings, Kelly plays Neville Bunker, who has once again forgotten to buy a Christmas present for his wife Belinda, played by Liza Goddard (The Constant Wife, An Ideal Husband, Single Spies). Meanwhile, sister Rachel is in her usual state about her love life, Uncle Bernard is planning another interminable puppet show, Uncle Harvey is growing more eccentric, Patti and husband Eddie are at their customary loggerheads and Auntie Phyllis is drunk in the kitchen.

Also in the cast of Season's Greetings are Ayckbourn regulars Terence Booth (Sugar Daddies), Bill Champion (Comic Potential, Haunting Julia), Matthew Cottle (Comic Potential, Way Upstream), Alexandra Mathie (House & Garden, My Sister Sadie) and Alison Pargeter (Damsels in Distress) as well as Jason Baughan and Eliza Hunt.

Season's Greetings is directed by Ayckbourn and designed by Roger Glossop, with lighting by Mick Hughes. It’s produced by Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in association with Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, where Ayckbourn is artistic director and where the play first premiered.

Following Guildford, Season's Greetings visits Windsor, Richmond, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Plymouth, Bath and Malvern.

- by Terri Paddock