It's five years since Terence Maynard was on stage, but a great director and a great play have tempted him back, he tells Steve Pratt.

A FEW years ago Terence Maynard made a film in Germany which involved spending a lot of time in the water. Being wet was uncomfortable enough but people on the set warned him: "Don't work in sand".

He's chosen to ignore their advice and will be playing the title role in Macbeth on a stage in York covered with 15 tonnes of black sand. As the production also involves fighting with Samurai swords, a cast in which women play men's roles and a number of large puppets, we must conclude that Damian Cruden's staging will be an unconventional one.

Maynard has been working almost exclusively in film and TV since he played another Shakespearean role, Othello, for Cruden at York Theatre Royal five years ago.

The part and Cruden directing were enough to tempt him back on the boards. "It was a conscious decision not to do theatre. I'd done a lot and wanted to bring up my TV skills and have that on my CV," he says.

"In one way, I was quite daunted by coming back to the theatre. Not because that's where I belong but that's where I'm rooted. After this, I don't think I will do theatre for a while."

While the idea of doing the Scottish play with sand and Samurai swords might seem unusual to most of us, the actor is more ready to accept this view as he's never seen Shakespeare's tragedy performed and has nothing with which to compare Cruden's approach.

"I never even considered myself playing the role," he says. "It wasn't an ambition, but when Damian spoke to me, the idea of working with him again, and the play, appealed. Those were the principal reasons I decided to do it. When you have an opportunity and are a good age, you should take it and do it."

The Theatre Royal production is being played on a sandy stage with few props and a timeless look. "I'm bringing my own modern qualities, I'm not setting myself in any period," he says.

"I suppose there are Japanese qualities because we are using Samurai swords and our dress is kind of oriental. It's our interpretation. It's not to be exact and say we're doing our kabuki version of Macbeth.

"I've never seen Macbeth before. It's good for actors not to have seen certain things, especially something that's so famous. Then you only have your own instincts. You have nothing to copy and are going on your own imagination."

The production of Othello was similarly bare and stark. "I think people generally loved it," he says. "It was two-and-a-half hours and didn't feel like it."

Despite not seeing a lot of Shakespeare, the bard of Avon was responsible "in a weird way" for Maynard getting interested in acting. "I don't think I was great at reading when I was younger and therefore wasn't familiar with plays," he says. "Then I went to college and followed a girlfriend to A-levels, studying A Midsummer Night's Dream. I played Bottom. I'd never seen a Shakespeare play or read one. I had quite a biggish voice so it suited. Damian sees me doing a lot of classical work and I think, as an actor, I have quite classical tendencies.

"I had training as a dancer and the way I hold myself on stage is quite good for classical theatre. I would prefer to be in Shakespeare or reading it than seeing it. But I do like to be in it."

After Othello, he played Orsino in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Globe Theatre in London. "I loved my time there. I like the language of Shakespeare. I like saying those words, the richness of the language and ability to give full volume," he says.

Since last appearing in York, he's filmed his biggest movie role to date - in Revolver, the new film from Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie. He plays a character named French Paul, right hand man to the gangster casino boss played by American actor Ray Liotta.

"I get to dress up in sharp suits and work with Ray Liotta. In that medium, I've not worked with anyone on that level. He's Hollywood.. We have a lot of just the two of us in scenes. It was a great education to watch somebody like that," he says.

"I'll be better for it. As an actor, you try to absorb and improve and being around a more experienced actor than you makes you better. I want to work with good actors and good directors. That's one of the reasons I came back to work with Damian. He's superb at what he does."

l Macbeth plays at York Theatre Royal from tonight to March 19. Tickets (01904) 623568.