ELVIS is entering the building and he's Chinese in Charlotte Jones's poignant comedy about an eccentric family and a birthday party, running at Hull Truck Theatre from tonight to March 5.

In a suburban semi on a winter’s evening, an odd collection of eccentric but lovable acquaintances gather to celebrate the 50th birthday of Josie, a dominatrix who conducts business from her living room.

Joining Josie are Brenda-Marie, her daughter with wisdom beyond her years; Martha, her devout Irish cleaner; and Lionel, Josie’s most loyal client with a heart of gold and a secret yearning to wear ladies’ dresses. No party would be complete without entertainment: cue Elvis impersonator Timothy Wong, whose appearance could only be upstaged by the arrival of an unexpected guest.

Premiered at Bolton's Octagon Theatre in 1999 and now revived by Hull Truck artistic director Mark Babych in a co-production with the Octagon, Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis captures the glimmer of promise and potential that lies in all of us, shining a spotlight on the opportunities that are out there, if only we choose to take them.

Taking the role of Lionel will be John Branwell, a familiar figure from Alan Ayckbourn plays at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and last seen on various Yorkshire stages having his eyeballs gouged out as Gloucester in Northern Broadsides' King Lear.

"Charlotte's play is one of those where I picked it up, thought 'what an intriguing title, I must read it' and I couldn't stop reading it, so I wrote to Mark about doing it," recalls John, who now finds himself indeed doing it.

"The play is about lots of journeys. I'm playing Lionel, who has formed a sort of friendship with the dominatrix, and he experiences the power of real love, as opposed to the exotic thrill that may be provided by the dominatrix, so there's the contrast between the mundane and something more dangerous."

What's all this about Lionel having a secret yearning to wear dresses? "Without giving too much away, Lionel has a great yen to dress up in women's clothing. He's not gay but like more men then you'd imagine, he likes the feel of a skirt...but there's nothing better than playing the dame in pantomime to put you off women's clothing."

Assessing what marks out Charlotte Jones's writing in 'Chinese Elvis', John says: "It's the sheer heart; the love of people; people you wouldn't necessarily expect to find their fulfilment, do so. Everyone has their frailty and everyone has their frailty addressed and looked after.

"There's an accomplishment to Charlotte's writing. It's very emotionally charged, veering between moments of high farce and deepest tragedy, and like Alan Ayckbourn, she has theatrical nous. She knows what to leave out as much as what to put in, and that's the same with acting: what you want to push and what you don't."

Tickets can be booked on 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk