YOU have to refer to it as “the Scottish play”. You can’t say the main character’s name on stage. And rumour has it the lead actor died before the first performance.

But none of these beliefs worry Bolton actor Nicholas Gleaves, who is set to take the lead role in the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of Macbeth.

“I’ve never had the superstition, all that spitting and spinning round — it all seems like quite hard work,” he says.

“Most of the cast for this production are quite young and they don’t seem to take much notice of it.”

Until someone breaks a limb after uttering the title on stage, of course.

40-year-old Nicholas, who is from Halliwell, is well known for his role as Whitaker in Survivors, the post-apocalyptic BBC drama.

“Survivors is based on a great idea,” he says. “I used to think as a child what would happen if the whole world was wiped out and there was only me and my friends left.”

A second series of the show will be returning to our screens soon, but in the meantime Nicholas is returning to the theatre that has been pivotal in his career.

“I’ve been here four times — it’s just a brilliant place to work,” he says. “I really feel like it’s my back yard.

“I wasn’t interested in acting when I was at school. We didn’t do any of that at Sharples — school wasn’t like it is now where you’re encouraged to try things like drama.

“When I left school my mum took me to the Royal Exchange — I went under sufferance, but it was like a bolt from the blue.

“I think it was a lot of luck and I had no pre-conceived ideas of what acting was like, it just turned my brain on.”

His first theatre role was as an extra in a production of Don Carlos, at the Royal Exchange, and he has previously taken supporting roles in Macbeth, but this is the first time he has had the main part.

He says; “I’m not sure why anyone would want to watch two people plot and murder lots of other people just so they can be king and queen. But it’s so fascinating — it’s about how the wrong sort of power can ruin you.”

The play has been given a modern twist by director Matthew Dunster, which Nicholas believes will help it speak to the audience.

“When I first came to the theatre the modern day plays really spoke to me,” he says. “It’s a story about a world at war, so I think it’s a really current play and I love the fact people are speaking in Shakespeare’s language but they're dressed like people you see on TV.

“Considering the awful events in Zimbabwe and Gaza right now, I think it’s very relevant.”

• Macbeth opens at the Royal Exchange, Exchange Square, Manchester, on February 25 and runs until April 11. Tickets cost £8.50 to £29.