MINA Anwar admits that she is preparing to face one of the biggest challenges of her career when she brings Shirley Valentine to life in the Octagon’s new production which opens on Monday.

“They do say be careful what you wish for, now I understand why,” she laughed. “It’s one of those things took me all of five seconds to say ‘yes’ to but then the panic sets in about what you’ve just done because it is such a mammoth undertaking.”

In taking on the role of the frustrated housewife in the play written by Willy Russell, Mina is determined to put her own stamp on things - something she has tried to do throughout her hugely successful career.

“I’ve talked with Willy Russell about resetting the whole thing to Lancashire and he was very happy for me to do that,” she said.

In both the original play and subsequent film the whole piece is set in Liverpool but Mina is convinced that moving everything ‘down the road’ will not reduce the impact of the production.

“When I read it through it, there’s not a lot of difference as to how I would read it and how other people would. After all, it’s a universal story of a woman who this monologue is all about.

“There is very much a working class mentality to it. These are women I know; they are women I have grown up with and I am one of them,” she said.

“I sit and talk to these women all the time. I’m always amazed at their humour, their eruditeness and their quirkiness. Then there’s their bluntness as well. I’m amazed at the complexity of women coming from a background that Shirley Valentine does, particularly as it’s set in 1991.

“She may be sitting there talking to the wall but she has such an observational way of looking at the world and has so much to offer.

“Willy Russell said that I will be the first person to do the play in a Lancashire accent and I’m quite proud of that.

“There is a natural rhythm to the language that will work so well if I use my normal accent. The play itself will appeal to lots of people. I’m hoping that people who know my work will pop by and have a natter with me and the wall.”

The wall is Shirley’s confidante as she starts to question her rather mundane life.

Mina is no stranger to taking on a brand new role. She most recently created the part of Ray in the hit musical Something About Jamie which opened in Sheffield before transferring to the West End.

“I enjoy discovering the beats of a person - the way they think, the way they act and react,” she said. “To me that’s the joy of acting. When someone else has established that rhythm, I’d probably find that a challenge unless I can create a new interpretation.”

Mina was born in Church near Accrington and is a close friend of former Coronation street star Julie Hesmondhalgh.

“We’ve know each other since were seven,” she said. “We sat at the same desk at school, we lived up the road from each other and went to every school together until we went to different drama schools.”

Mina went to Accrington and Rossendale College before studying at the Mountview Academy in London. She got her first big break when she was cast in the TV comedy Thin Blue Line written by Ben Elton.

“I was unknown in TV world then and I had to fight very hard to get that part but I understood that humour, I’d grown up watching it and I’m now proud to be able to call Ben a friend.”

Mina has constantly challenged the accepted norms but she doesn’t consider herself a crusader.

“I don’t believe in crusading,” she said. “But I’m tenacious and enjoy forging a pioneering path. I hope that I may have opened doors for others to follow.”

Shirley Valentine, Octagon production at the Library Theatre, Bolton, Monday, February 10 to Saturday, February 29. Details from www.octagonbolton.co.uk or 01204 520661