GREGORY Floy's choice was always Emma Gregory for the role of the irrepressible, strong-minded Maggie Hobson in Hobson's Choice at York Theatre Royal.

"I first intended to use Emma in the play when I was artistic director of the Mercury Theatre in Colchester," he recalls. "For five years it was a play I tried to get the rights to perform, but because we started to get a good reputation and Colchester was only 50 miles from London, and there was a big production planned for the West End, it didn't happen.

"Next there was a production in Birmingham, then one in Scarborough, and an Indian version, and a ballet, and so it still didn't happen in Colchester."

However, the Gregory-Gregory partnership for Hobson's Choice finally comes to fruition in York next week, after Gregory Floy took the opportunity to enquire about directing opportunities while playing Sir Anthony Blunt in the Theatre Royal production of Alan Bennett's Single Spies in autumn 2003.

"I approached Damian artistic director Damian Cruden and Ludo former chief executive Ludo Keston to ask if there was any chance of directing something, and Damian said there wouldn't be any chance of anything until 2005 (as they planned much further ahead than we did in Colchester), but at least I was on the files," Gregory says.

"He then offered me this chance to do Hobson's Choice, which was quite a surprise and I was pleased to accept, especially after those five years of trying in Colchester."

Emma Gregory last appeared on a North Yorkshire stage in Love's A Luxury and A Chorus Of Disapproval in last summer's repertory season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Now she returns in the peachiest of roles in Harold Brighouse's classic Lancashire comedy.

"She's exactly right for the part of Maggie because she's a bloody good actress and I knew she would do it brilliantly," says Gregory. "I know that puts pressure on her, but she will do it brilliantly."

Emma starred in his Colchester productions of The Crucible and The Duchess Of Malfi. "It helps if you have a good working relationship because you can relax and explore things inside you," she says. "You have to trust the people around you to let yourself go to places that might be painful to explore what the character is going through - and I do find this play very emotional."

Emotional, but rewarding. "I think it would be very easy to play Maggie in one tack, as a bolshie woman of 30 who has never enjoyed life or sex, but Brighouse has created a fantastic female role model. She has all this warmth and passion in her that no one has thought to bring out, so there are many colours to explore," she says.

Gregory rejoins: "I can't believe how contemporary this play is. It has issues of single parenting, feminism, the empowerment of women, alcoholism..."

"...Deprivation, abuse of workers," chips in Emma. "And at the root of everything, there's love and great passion and a love of life."

The Gregory-Gregory combo truly is in tandem.

Hobson's Choice, York Theatre Royal, March 29 to April 16. Box office: 01904 623568.

Updated: 09:09 Friday, March 25, 2005