TONY Jayawardena’s enthusiasm for the project which will dominate his life for the next month couldn’t be more obvious.

His eyes light up as he looks around Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre where a new version of Hobson’s Choice is being staged.

“Just look at this space,” he says. “The Royal Exchange has been on my hitlist for so long - it’s such a pleasure to be able to perform here.”

Originally set in Salford in the 1880s, Harold Brighouse’s classic play has been moved to Manchester’s Northern Quarter in the 1980s.

Hari Hobson, played by Tony, has moved with his family from Uganda, forced out by the regime of dictator Idi Amin and has set up his tailoring business in the city.

“This adaptation makes it very relevant to today with regard to immigration and to how immigrant families feel within the community,” said Tony, who has worked with the RSC and who will be known to TV viewers for his role in Ackerley Bridge.

Hari Hobson is a man set in his ways and resistant to change. He’s out of step with the modern world and it is down to his eldest daughter Durga, to try and and change him

“When people not familiar with Hobson’s Choice ask me about the play I tell them to think of a comedy King Lear,” said Tony. “Hari has three daughters but he doesn’t know what the hell to do with them, he’s despairing for the future. Time is moving on and he doesn’t have the tools within himself to move with them.

“In this version it takes his eldest daughter doing some pretty extreme things to get him into a position where he is even willing to look at change.

“I love plays like this, it’s not just the microscopic but also the macroscopic. You have the small story that I adore. It’s parents versus children which is just timeless and then you have got to make it relevant to today and maybe have a lesson in there too.”

Tony ‘s Hari is a man who often regales at the world around him - usually in the local pub. I tell him he reminds me in some ways of Alf Garnett from Til Death Us Do Part.

“That’s good,” he laughed. “Although they are from totally opposite sides of the aisle, they have so much common ground. And that’s what this version of Hobson’s Choice points to.

“From my point of view it is about being able to show that different communities have the same fears and problems and really that we are all the same despite comments to the contrary.

“The commonalties between human beings don’t seem to be talked about half as much as the differences.”

Tony said that Hari is partly based on a number of people.

“Any time I’m playing an Asian father it tends to have some its roots in my own father - that’s almost inevitable,” he said. “But Hari’s not just him, there are plenty of men I’ve known and not just Asian men who have contributed something to the character.”

Born in London to Sri Lankan parents, Tony admits that his own decision to become an actor caused some consternation in his family.

“My parents grew up in a country and at time when doing acting as a job just didn’t exist,” he said. “It just wasn’t a thing, It wasn’t even talked about as a possibility. My dad was a doctor and I had uncles who were a lawyer and an accountant so you can see the way I was heading.

“I remember going to school at the start of A levels and friend of mine said he was going to apply to do a drama degree. At that time I was going to apply for medicine and it sounds really stupid now but until then I hadn’t even made the connection between the people I saw on TV and that it was an actual job.

“It was difficult for my parents but my mum was brilliant at supporting me through drama school and they have come to see most of the stuff I’ve done. I’ve got to give them credit. As I’m discovering now, the older you get the harder it is to accept change.”

The run with Hobson’s Choice is giving Tony the chance to explore Manchester.

“I’m loving the city,” he said.”It’s my first opportunity to spend any serious length of time here. I’m 40 now but it has almost felt like I was at uni again. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Manchester a lot better.”

For the next few weeks, Tony is revelling at the chance to play Hari every night.

“It’s all about making him a sympathetic character,” he said. “That’s my job - if I can’t do that then I shouldn’t be in the role. If it’s believable then it’s at it’s funniest. The more you believe in the character the more powerful it is.

“I love it when you have an audience laughing out loud and you know that there is a twist coming - that is so effective.”

Hobson’s Choice, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday, July 6. Details from 0161 833 9833 or