HAILED by Sir Ian McKellen as one of the country's greatest directors and with 60 years experience, Mike Alfreds has plenty of knowledge to share.

Hugely respected by some of the industry's biggest names, he is coming to the town on Monday for a question and answer session at Bolton Little Theatre (BLT).

The workshop has been arranged by the Independent Centre For Actor Training (ICAT), Spa Road, and is open to anyone with an interest in acting and theatre.

The 80-year-old said: "When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor.

"Then I wanted to be a writer and then I discovered there was something called directing and I pursued that."

He trained as a director at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, overseeing his first play at the age of 20, and lived in the USA for eight years before working in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Norway, China, Israel and Mongolia.

He said: "I've just been working ever since and I set a couple of theatre companies up."

He has directed at the Royal Shakespeare Company, worked on productions across the globe and directed McKellen, Sheila Hancock and Roy Kinnear in his own version of Anton Chekov's The Cherry Orchard.

The Lord of the Rings and The X-Men star, who went to Bolton School and is a patron of BLT described Mike as "one of the three best directors in the country".

Mike said: "It's ever such a long time ago, he is an absolutely wonderful man.

"I worked with him at the National Theatre.

"He has talked about me very generously over the years and said I had quite a big effect on the way he worked which is very flattering.

"That was way back in the late '80s.

"I see him occasionally, he is very admirable. He has gone out and dealt with things, not just acting, he is socially active."

Following the Q&A at BLT, Mike will host a four-day course at ICAT where he is on the board of advisors.

Set up by Simon Trinder, from Horwich, the training centre attracts major industry players to share their expertise with would-be actors.

Mike said: "Simon is a lovely man. He was an actor I worked with two or three times and I'm very fond of him.

"I'm very impressed he has set up the school which is a fantastic achievement.

"He is very serious and has got a lot of integrity.

"He has done his homework very well and he is very meticulous."

Mike is also a visiting fellow at Northumbria University and gives frequent courses on acting, directing, rehearsal processes and storytelling.

In recent times fears have been raised by the likes of Dame Helen Mirren and Farnworth playwright Jim Cartwright that only people from privileged backgrounds can pursue a career in theatre.

Mike said: "I agree it's a big problem.

"If you do not have family who can give a bit of money, you can't do it.

"I think it's true to a certain degree it's becoming a very middle class profession which isn't good because talent is spread across all types of people.

"There are scholarships but they are hard to come by."

Mike Alfreds in Conversation will be at Bolton Little Theatre, Hanover Street, at 7pm on Monday.

Tickets cost £10 and must be booked in advance by e mailing admin@independentcentreforactortraining.co.uk.