YOU probably remember him as Dennis from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, but there’s more to actor Tim Healy than the eighties sitcom that made his name.

He’s currently starring in the new Alan Plater play Looking For Buddy, at Bolton Octagon.

TIM Healy is exactly how you’d imagine him to be.

Laid-back, funny, and very Geordie.

Our interview is scheduled at 9.30am, before the day’s rehearsal starts, and he tucks into a bacon butty between answering questions.

“This has been a fantastic part for me,” said Healy.

“The play is written by Alan Plater, a great friend of mine, so when it came along I thought ‘I have got to do this’.”

Looking for Buddy is a new musical with an original jazz score. It takes a wry and witty look at the new Tyneside, whilst weaving in the story of mysterious jazz trumpeter Buddy Bolden, whose legendary music was never recorded.

Healy is passionate about the play, which is co-produced by Live Theatre, the theatre company he co-founded in 1973.

“It’s a really fun show,” he said. “The Buddy we’re talking about is Buddy Bolden, a legendary jazz trumpet player. His music was never recorded and so he became a legend. In that way the play is about the past, but it’s very current, it’s about the credit crunch too and how the world is right now.

“After three weeks in Bolton we’re taking it back to Newcastle where I started off. It’ll be fantastic to get back to my roots.”

Another reason Healy is enjoying himself so much right now is that the location of the theatre means he can get back to his Alderley Edge home at night after the show is over.

“It’s great,” he said, “I can do the school run in the morning then come to work like a normal person!

“That means a lot to an actor. This job takes you far and wide all the time and it’s very rare that you can go to work and then come home at night.”

Of course, no matter what Healy does now, he’ll probably always be Dennis off Auf Wiedersehen, Pet to a lot of people.

In typically laid-back style, this doesn’t appear to concern him.

I’m very proud of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet,” said Healy. “It changed my life. I’d been an actor for 12 years before the show but after I was on that all of a sudden things took off.

“I’d done little bits in Emmerdale Farm and Coronation Street, but when Auf Wiedersehen came along it was a huge turning point for me. And afterwards I was given opportunities that I’d have never had otherwise, so I’ll always be grateful for it.”

And he admits people still get him mixed up with his character.

“Oh aye, people still call me Dennis Healy all the time,” he laughed. “But I don’t get fed up. In fact it’s getting worse now because ITV 4 are re-running the shows.”

But theatre is where Healy’s heart truly lies.

“I have done quite a lot of theatre that’s where my passion is,” he said.

“Last year I played the part of the dad in Billy Elliot in the West End, which was fantastic (he modestly doesn’t mention that he was nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance).

“I’m loving it. It’s great to be able to get excited about going to work, especially at my age. It’s a great life.”

l See Tim Healy in Looking for Buddy at Bolton Octagon now and until Saturday, April 25. For tickets call booking office on 01204 520661.