"Everyone on stage is an actor, whether they like it or not, and I'm just trying to harness that and push it a little bit further," says Peter Wilson of his vaudevillian alter ego, Duke Special.

"Anybody who walks out on stage, whether they're a vicar, a teacher or a politician, is exaggerating a certain part of themselves for those moments.

"It's the same when you perform. You're singing something you've written a few years ago and, if you're delivering it properly, you're getting back inside the skin of that song, the emotion and the feeling."

After spending most of his 20s playing piano in covers and indie bands, people began telling Wilson his new songs sounded like something out of a 1930's music hall show.

He knew virtually nothing about vaudeville at the time but soon became entranced by the pre-rock 'n' roll era. Gradually, the eyeliner-daubed, eccentrically-constumed Duke Special persona emerged.

"There's just something mesmerising about that period, the performances, even the sound of the recordings," he says. "I try to harness some of that, I suppose."

His melodic, orchestral efforts to "capture something beautiful and dusty on record" have been rapturously received in his homeland. Earlier this year he was voted best Irish male artist at the Meteor Awards, Ireland's equivalent of The Brits.

Wilson has also collaborated with the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon and Romeo Stodart from the Magic Numbers, played with the Ulster and Dubai Philharmonics, and supported Van Morrison, Crowded House and the Beautiful South.

He will start recording his third album later in the month, before travelling to Chicago to work with Pixies and Nirvana producer Steve Albini on a B-sides project.

Wilson has asked 11 other artists, including Neil Hannon and Ed Harcourt, to write songs for him based on the silent movies of Hector Mann, a character from a book by Paul Auster.

He says his new material will continue to balance heartfelt lyrical content with a theatrical presentation.

"I love people being wrongfooted, whether by appearance or by taking them in a certain direction for a while and then pulling them right back by putting something funny in there," he explains.

"It's like life - not just all one thing, full of contradictions and the unexpected."

  • 8.30pm, £10, 01273 647100