When Bill Ward was presented with the script for The Book of Will, he admits that he couldn’t put it down.

“I read it four times in one night,” he said. “It was just such a fresh piece of writing. It’s funny and the story’s so well constructed; it just bounces along.

“And the great thing is that it’s a true story which makes is so much more compelling.”

Bolton Octagon is hosting the European premiere of The Book of Will which tells the story of the race to gather together and record all of Shakespeare’s plays before they were lost forever.

Lancashire Telegraph: Bill Ward and Carrie Quinlan in The Book of Will (Picture: Pamela Raith)

The co-production with the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Shakespeare North Playhouse, marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio - the first collection of his work.

“When the plays were performed in Shakespeare’s day most of them hadn’t been written down,” said Bill, “and the ones that had been were transcribed by people who came to watch the play and wrote them down secretly when they were in the audience so they weren’t sanctioned.

“The play is the story of two men Henry Condell and John Heminges and their families who led the charge to gather together the plays.

“They were last two remaining original members of Shakespeare’s own theatre company The King’s Men and they realised that if they didn’t do it, the works would be lost to time.”

Bill plays Henry, one of the two men theatre lovers and scholars alike owe a massive debt of gratitude to today.

“I’ve done some Shakespeare over the years but although I was aware of the story, it wasn’t something I knew,” he said. “But it’s been such fun to be part of this production.”

Playing a key role in a 400-year-old rescue is a far cry from Bill’s best known role, that of Coronation Street villain Charlie Stubbs, the bullying builder who was killed by Tracy Barlow. He was in Coronation Street for four years until 2007 and he also spent four years on Emmerdale as James Barton, leaving that soap in 2017.

On stage he’s performed in Legally Blonde: The Musical and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in the West End. Later this year he is to star in a revival of The Full Monty, marking the 25th anniversary of the original film.

“I’ve been very lucky in my career,” he said. “I think I’ve done about 50 plays and around 30 TV shows and I love them both; they are both very different.”

The Book of Will is being directed by the Octagon’s artistic director Lette Wakeham and is performed ‘in the round’.

“I think I have played at virtually every theatre in the North West but the Octagon,” said Bill. “We were lucky to be able to do a couple of weeks rehearsals in Bolton before we moved down to Hornchurch so I got to see the space we will be working in.

“It’s such a beautiful theatre - it’s the perfect play to be doing there, especially in the round. For the audience it’s a truly immersive experience and they find themselves almost part of the action.”

Although the Octagon will only be the second theatre to host the show, The Book of Will has already been nominated for three Off West End theatre awards (Offies) - performance ensemble, Jonnie Riordan for choreography and movement and Lotte Wakeham for best director.

“It is a rather beautiful piece of work,” said Bill modestly.

And he urged audiences not to be put off by a play about Shakespeare.

“It is a very modern piece of writing,” he said. “It’s written in modern English and actually it’s a bit of a romp - it’s certainly a great night out.”

The Book of Will is at Bolton Octagon until Saturday, June 3. Details from www.octagobolton.co.uk