"Most people assume the play is set in a fairground but it is more about life going round and coming back to the same place," says Hugh Ross, director of JB Priestley's forgotten work The Roundabout, which opens at Park Theatre this week.

The Roundabout is a new direction for the 71-year-old, who has acted for most of his career and has had film roles in The Iron Lady, Patriot Games and Trainspotting, as well as theatre credits with The Royal Shakespeare Company and The National Theatre.

He won a Time Out award for his portrayal of Malvolio in Twelfth Night and has appeared in the West End, most notably in Death and the Maiden, The Woman in Black and The Invention of Love.

Despite the play's ambiguous title, The Roundabout looks at the social order of 1930s Britain and focuses on a family called the Kettlewells, who are really quite dysfunctional. Richard is an old Etonian whose business ventures are failing and over one crowded weekend, his daughter Pamela, whom he hasn't seen for many years, returns from Russia as a communist, while his ex-wife and mistress also both turn up and causes him to start drinking heavily to cope with the escalating situation.

Hugh reveals that Priestley's play mysteriously languished in obscurity after its 1930s debut, but he is hoping this revival will be as well received as Priestley's classics An Inspector Calls and Time and the Conways.

He explains: "The play was a success and very entertaining and funny in the '30s, but somehow it got lost and nobody really knows why.

"Although we can't find one particular reason, there is a theory he was having an affair with the actress Peggy Ashcroft at the time and wrote the leading part for her, although she never actually played it. However, around that time he also went back to his wife, so we were wondering if the play got brushed aside as it was a reminder of a difficult time.

"It gives an interesting insight to life in Britain the decade before the Second World War. The Kettlewells lost all their money due to the financial crash at the end of the '20s and so they are suddenly poor and the plot about the daughter is interesting as she is looking for security and has been radicalised with new political views due to not having a very secure background."

Hugh was born in Glasgow but moved to London in 1963 after joining The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. As well as working as a doctor, his father wrote plays, poetry and painted and as a student at Glasgow Academy, Hugh was involved in Shakespeare plays every summer, where he played Richard III among other legendary characters.

He says: "Acting and directing bring very different things so it is hard to say which I prefer doing. As a director, it is very important to know a bit about acting and it is good to be given this challenge, as it keeps me on my toes. You're never too old even in your 70s and I find it very invigorating and energising.

"Every play is different, so as a director you have to respect the writer's intentions first of all, but a huge amount of the director's skill is to cast well and get the right people for the parts. If you have that, you are half way there especially as every actor works in a different way, as some people need care and attention but others like to be left alone to work on their craft and find their own way."

It will be the first time Hugh has worked at Park Theatre but he is already full of praise.

He says: "It is a nice little community theatre, as everyone can get involved and it also has the best rehearsal room I have ever seen. It is light and airy and different due to most rehearsal rooms being in dark basements with only fluorescent lights. Also, the catering is very nice and so it is just a very nice place to work."

He is no stranger to the world of theatre, as it has been a constant in his life for as long as he can remember.

He has no plans to give it up just yet and has been asked to direct The Mousetrap in the West End after his run at Park Theatre ends next month.

He says: "It is daunting and will be a big challenge as it has been running for a hundred years but I am looking forward to putting my own twist on it, just like I'm doing with The Roundabout."

The Roundabout, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP, until September 24, 7.30pm. Details: 020 7870 6876, parktheatre.co.uk