THIS staged photograph of a group of students promoting a production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale back in 1990 could be just another old photograph from our archives.

But for one of their number it was a real sign of things to come.

For one of the cast of the production at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Blackburn, was destined to have a hugely successful stage career and has gone on to become one of the most respected Shakesperean actors of his day.

Accrington-born Jonathan Slinger (he’s the one with the loud check suit norrowly avoiding the bear!) left QEGS in 1991 for a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. From there he began an acting career which saw him asked to join the Royal Shakesepeare Company taking on some of the most demanding roles in theatre.

He played both Richard II and Richard III as the RSC staged all of the Bard’s history plays over a two-and-a-half year period using the same company of actors.

He was also asked to play two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragic figures - Macbeth and Hamlet.

The new version of Macbeth in which he starred was the first production to be staged at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon following major refurbishment in 2011.

It is all a far cry from Jonathan’s humble beginnings appearing with Accrington Amateurs in productions such as Mack and Mabel at Oswaldtwistle Civic Theatre.

Although he has concentrated mainly on Shakespeare, Jonathan has also enjoyed major success away from the Bard.

He was in a stage version of the hit TV comedy Yes, Minister and in 2015, he took London’s West End by storm when he played Willy Wonka in the hit musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

He has been back working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and one of his most recent roles was as one of the leads in the Restoration comedy The Provoked Wife at the Swan Theatre in Stratford.

It’s all a far cry from a school production in Blackburn nearly 30 years ago