WEST End actor David Ricardo-Pearce returns to the Octagon stage to star in one of the greatest plays of revenge, love and tragedy - Hamlet.

The production opens a week today as the theatre’s former artistic director David Thacker returns to direct what is arguably Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy.

The actor charged with taking on one of theatre’s greatest roles and who has previously starred in Alfie and Romeo and Juliet at the Octagon said that returning to Bolton felt like coming home.

He said: “It’s great as there are a lot of familiar faces. “I remember how much fun it is to play in the theatre, it’s an exciting space to work in. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Hamlet is regarded as one of the ultimate challenges for an actor and David said he is enjoying getting to grips with the complex character, who continues to divide opinion.

“He’s a really mixed up guy but I suppose anyone would in the situation that he finds himself. But I really like him,” he said. “He meets the ghost of his dad which is quite a freaky thing to happen and his dad then says ‘I need you to revenge me’. Hamlet is not a natural revenger, he’s much more of a thinker. “I think he’s basically a really good bloke trapped in a really unfortunate situation and just struggling to stay sane through it.”

The Octagon production follows a Royal Shakespeare company version at the Lowry, Salford Quays, starring Paapa Essiedu.

David said: “No two Hamlets are the same because I suppose playing the part means exposing yourself as a human being and as an actor and I guess that’s what makes them all different. “I hope I am going to bring a lot of openness and humour and feeling. My main hope for my Hamlet is that the audience feel really involved in his journey.

“This production is going to be very gripping, it is quite fast paced and it is going to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Hopefully they will laugh and they will cry and be baffled along with me on the journey.”

David believes the play is as relevant today as it was when it was first written.

He said: “There is a lot of unrest globally at the moment and I think a lot of people feel very uncomfortable.

“I think that Hamlet as a play is dealing with what it means to be human and what the purpose of life is, but there is a political undercurrent to the play as well.”

David had a reassuring message for people worried that Shakespeare may be too demanding. “I think it’s pretty easy to follow the plot of Hamlet.

There are a lot of Shakespeare plays out there I would think very hard about going to see. “There are a lot of plays I would sit through and think ‘I don’t really know what is going on’ but I think the basic plot of Hamlet is very easy to follow.

“It’s also kind of exciting as there’s always something happening in every scene. It is also the most beautiful writing. I’d say Hamlet is a pretty good place to start because I think it is Shakespeare’s best play.

“The beauty of Hamlet is that even if you come out of it going ‘I didn’t really understand all of that’ you will still come out enriched in some way.

“Watching a big Shakespeare play fires bits of your brain that you are not usually using,”

For Octagon regulars, there will be a lot of familiar faces in the production.

“The whole cast of Jane Eyre (which ends at the Octagon this weekend) are in it, so if people have seen Jane Eyre they can come and watch Hamlet and go ‘that’s Rochester playing Laertes’,” said David.

“There are things within the casting of the play which I think makes it quite fun - we have got a female Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for instance - and I really think it is going to be a good night out. “I would definitely say it is a really good place to start if you are a bit scared of Shakespeare and, if nothing else, you get to see a cool sword fight at the end!” he laughed.

Hamlet, the Octagon, Bolton, Thursday, February 15 to Saturday, March 10. Details from 01204 520661 or octagonbolton.co.uk