Viv Hardwick attempts to chat to Gordon Kaye about his touring comedy, "There's No Place Like A Home, and discuss the stage return of 'Allo 'Allo.

MY conversation with comedy star Gorden Kaye seems destined to become more 'Goodbye Goodbye' than 'Allo 'Allo right from the moment he picks up the phone. He sounds flustered and complains about the Thursday morning interview being arranged at short notice, although the well-organised staff at Billingham Forum's theatre had requested the chance for me to talk to the leading light of new touring comedy There's No Place Like A Home a couple of weeks previously.

Aware of Kaye's sensitivity about press intrusion - he famously lost a court case about his privacy being invaded in 1990 when he was photographed and 'interviewed' while recovering from emergency brain surgery - I ask if part of our conversation can be recorded for use on The Northern Echo's audio podcast service.

There follows three minutes and 22 seconds of debate which makes me feel like I'm attempting to drag his famed French wartime TV character, café owner Rene Artois, in front of a firing squad.

Eventually he says: "We aren't getting very far are we... I think maybe it would be better if you were to try somebody else in the company. They may be happy to have their stuff all over the internet or wherever it might be.

"It's not that I don't respect the tabloid press and I know that the tabloid press have got nothing to do with the internet have they... like hell they haven't. If there's an off-the-cuff remark I make and it goes on the internet then the wrong sort of publicity would descend upon us as we are halfway through this tour at Hull. I'm very careful about publicity, you learn to be when you've had the experiences that I've had."

Appearing to be on the verge of hanging up, 67-year-old Kaye suddenly switches to discussing There's No Place Like A Home written by Paul Elliott, which runs at the Forum next week. A cast of TV stalwarts like Kaye, Ken Morley, Don McLean, Christopher Beeny, Peter Byrne, Brian Cant, Sue Hodge and Jan Hunt play residents of the Stollberg Hall Retirement Home for Theatrical Performers who decide to kidnap Jeffrey Archer and demand a ransom which will save the building from closure.

He says: "I'd never worked with Paul Elliott before but somebody had recommended me as a reasonably good actor to play a part last year and we're doing it again this year. I'm pleased because the audiences like it because it's a good comedy and fun to do and I'm working with some chums, well now they're all chums."

Kaye clearly enjoys being among such well-known faces on stage and comments: "I'll have been in TV and entertainment for 40 years next September. I'll have been at it 40 years, more than half my life and it's nice to look back on. There have been bumpies and 'not so bumpies' but this is one of the fun ones and I'll keep at it and who knows if I'll get the chance for a holiday next year."

As, just three days earlier, he'd announced he was in negotiation to star in a 27-week touring version of 'Allo 'Allo next year - following a one-off TV BBC2 reunion in April - I ask whether his holiday plans may have to be delayed for another massively popular tour. It is 22 years since the Huddersfield-born actor toured a UK stage version of the 1982-92 TV hit, although he revived Rene for Australian audiences a few months ago.

Earlier in the week, he was quoted as saying: "Going over to Australia and doing the show with Sue (Hodge, who plays Mimi Labonq) and Guy (Singer, alias Lieut Gruber) and a cast of Australian actors made me say yes to the tour next year. We are going to tour the UK and also go to three cities in Norway - Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim."

Now he says: "It may be a possibility, yes. It's either a yes or a no if it's set up. We'll wait and see. I'd heard a hint about this so that's why I'm saying 'oh come on I want a holiday'. This play goes to the end of November and if ('Allo, 'Allo) should happen it will be almost days into the New Year before it was started on. That would take most of the year up. That's the whisper of plans. I've indicated 'let me know when you know what the question is and I'll let you know the answer'. It's probably as well if you didn't state that as a fact that this is going to happen with Gorden Kaye in it because it may or may not."

I ask if the tour is a question of finance and making sure as many of the original cast are available as possible.

"And the public like to know whether it's about finance do they? No. Dear God, we're in the wrong area. We're doing There's No Place Like A Home. If you want to know about 'Allo 'Allo then you should actually ask somebody who may or may not be proposing to put it on. Unless you happen to have something in front of you that I know not what of. Why are you asking about financial availability? I cannot say any more about 'Allo 'Allo - the stage show. That's the end of that portion. There you are you see. If that had been going on the internet... it's all not going very well. I'm going to finish the interview now. Thank you for calling."

And Kaye hangs up.

* There's No Place Like A Home runs at Billingham Forum's Theatre, Tuesday-Saturday. Box Office: 01642-552663.