A FORMER soap bad boy is hoping to win over audiences in Bolton as he turns love-rat on stage.

James Atherton has enjoyed playing serial killers and vengeful ex-boyfriends but his next role is far more risque.

The 30-year-old actor, who hails from Carlisle, is taking one of the title leads in the Octagon Theatre's revival of Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

Rather like in his previous roles, on paper Bob is a classic 'bad boy' – starting a sexually-charged affair with two teenaged schoolgirls after they start babysitting his young child.

However, James is hoping to show a more sympathetic side to the Lothario.

He said: "I always seem to play these bad lads; Coronation Street it was a revenge porn story line, a serial killer in Hollyoaks. The thing with Bob though is this takes place in a different time.

"My challenge is to try and make the audience feel that he isn't doing a bad thing. He is having marital troubles, he shouldn't be doing what he does with the girls, but you have to see why he does it.

"It will be interesting to see how the audience react. It comes from a very different time but since then we have heard an awful lot about the grooming which took place in the 70s and 80s. It will be really, really interesting to see what people think of the story now."

Max Stafford-Clark, who directed the premiere of Rita, Sue and Bob Too back in 1982 at the Royal Court, is leading the revival which also stars Taj Atwal as Rita and Gemma Dobson as Sue.

A co-production with Octagon Theatre, Out of Joint and The Royal Court Theatre, the production will open in Bolton on September 6 and then tour the UK until February 2018.

Written by Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, it is known for its far-from-romantic but quite risque sex-scenes between Bob, Rita and Sue.

James explains: "I'm not sure how the scenes play out on the stage yet, it is quite an intimate situation for the rehearsal room but you just have to go with it.

"Filming for television it would be on a closed set with about three other people there, whereas this is going to be on stage – all hanging out in some way, shape or form!

"There might be some clever angles, it is nerve wracking for everyone, the first night could be a bit twitchy!"

James is looking forward to the launch at Octagon, a theatre he got to know during his time in Coronation Street.

He adds: "I've went there quite a bit to see some productions. I was going to performing there at one point but the filming schedule did not work so it's great to be able to be there this time.

"It is a great theatre and we are all really excited."

Rita, Sue and Bob Too will run at Bolton until September 23.