Jonathan Slinger laughs as he explains why, in a career which has taken him to the West End and the Royal Shakespeare Company, he is currently preparing to star in an Arthur Miller play for the first time.

“I think I’m reaching that age where I’m a natural fit for playing screwed up, middle-aged men,” said the Accrington-born actor who will be returning ‘home’ to play Eddie Carbone in A View From The Bridge at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre.

“Miller writes really well about middle aged men in a crisis. But his younger characters all tend to be these very virile, very sporty types and that’s never been me really.

“Let’s just say as a younger actor I wouldn’t have been a natural choice for Marco in this play for instance. But it’s nice to get your hands on a part where there is so much to work with. Eddie is a gift of a part.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Jonathan Slinger and Kirsty Bushell in rehearsal for A View From The Bridge (Picture: Helen Murray)

Parts which are a gift to an actor litter Jonathan’s CV. As a leading member of the RSC he has played both Macbeth and Hamlet and also been nominated for best actor awards for performance as both Richard II and Richard III. In the West End he spent two years playing Willy Wonka in the musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A View From The Bridge is one of a series of plays which established Arthur Miller as one of the Twentieth centuries great playwrights.

Jonathan’s character, Eddie, is a complex, troubled character. A blue collar dockworker, he’ s a second generation Italian New Yorker coping with hardship and a complex family life which is further compounded when two cousins - illegal immigrants from Sicily - arrive at his home.

“Like so many of Miller’s characters, Eddie is very much a flawed anti-hero,” said Jonathan. “But for me, it was important that I try to resist the temptation to label him or pigeon-hole him.

“I never want to effectively take the audience by the nose and tell them to look at a particular character though one fixed lens - that is really unhelpful to them.

“If you have a preconceived idea about someone it’s very difficult to then watch them in an unbiased way.

“Eddie is a very nuanced character and I’m currently on my own voyage of discovery with him. I am trying to peel back a lot of the preconceptions people have about him.

“The audience can make up their own minds about him as they are going along and it’s not my job not to judge him, but to just play him from moment to moment.”

Amazingly, this will be the first time that Jonathan will have performed at the Octagon.

“The Octagon was one of two theatre we used to go to when I was a kid,” he said, “It was either Bolton or the Royal Exchange in Manchester.”

Accrington-born Jonathan attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Blackburn, before he got a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1991.

Read also: Before he hit the big time, Jonathan Slinger threatened by bear

“For some reason the Octagon has never come on to my radar for whatever reason,” he said. “It’s certainly not been a conscience decision on my part. I have worked at the Royal Exchange a couple of times but never at the Octagon until now.

“It’s been so long since I was there. I remember one show that had jazz and music in it but I can’t remember what show it was.

“My abiding memory of the Octagon from those school visits was that it is such an intimate space. You could see everyone in the audience.

“As a performer I do quite like that. For many years I’ve done Shakespeare and that calls out for a certain interaction with the audience. I like the fact that the audience are around you you can bring them into your world.”

A View From The Bridge is a joint production between the Octagon, the Chichester Festival Theatre and the Rose Theatre and is directed by directed by Holly Race Roughan, the artistic director of pioneering company Headlong. It will be the first major production of the work in the UK for a decade.

It may be almost 70 years since it was written, but Arthur Miller’s influence is still being felt.

“Miller is a very actor friendly writer,” said Jonathan. “I think initially we were all quite keen to ignore all his stage directions as they appeared to be quite restrictive. But as we have gone through the rehearsal process we have come to realise a lot of them are actually really good and very helpful.

“They almost have their own physical language which informs the characters stories that’s really helpful. We’ve started to analyse them a bit more closely now.”

Playing Eddie Carbone would, at first glance, appear to be a major change from playing Willy Wonka.

“I had a great time doing that show,” said Jonathan, “it was almost celebratory. But having played Willy for up to eight shows a week for two years I also found him to be incredibly layered and complicated character.

“My approach to all parts whether it’s Eddie, Willy Wonka or Richard II is always the same. I don’t change it. I want to analyse the character as a person.

“With Willy Wonka, I found he was found incredibly nuanced and quite screwed up in lots of ways. I found him incredibly satisfying to play; for me he was as satisfying to play as some of the Shakespeare roles I’ve done without doubt.”

A View From The Bridge, Bolton Octagon Theatre, Friday, September 8 to Saturday, September 30. Details from