IF there is one thing young actors can rely on from the Mercury Theatre, it is there will be plenty of opportunities.

Just ask Nicholas Barton-Wines who, aged just 19, has already appeared on the main stage as a member of the youth theatre, assisted directors Gari Jones and Dee Evans, and, most recently, was given his first major role in a company production.

That was in last month’s the Rivals in which he, and fellow ex-youth theatre actress Bethany Sharpe, appeared, alongside some of the company’s most established names.

Now he’s back on the main stage, this time in Mercury’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge.

Nicholas says: “Stepping in with all these people, who have been doing it for years, it was quite an honour.

“I think it was that first day with the real actors that was the most daunting, but it was incredibly exciting as well.

“It was such a brilliant time. For the first time I knew this is what I wanted to be doing.”

Born in Basildon, Nicholas’s family moved to Tolleshunt D’Arcy, just outside Colchester, when he was one.

It was while at Holmwood House School, in Colchester, that he first discovered he had a talent for acting.

“There was nothing I was really good at until I got to Year 5,” he says. “That was when I got one of the main parts in the school play. Normally only the Year 6 pupils ever got the main parts and I suppose that was the confidence-boost I needed to set me on my way.”

That said, Nicholas didn’t discover the Mercury Youth Theatre until he was 15. He adds: “I did the Mercury’s summer schools from the age of 12 and it was Charlie Morgan (Mercury company actress) who said I should join the youth theatre.”

As a member of the youth theatre, Nicholas did three Fresh Festivals, the annual August celebration of the three senior youth groups.

It started with Arabian Nights and culminated in last year’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, by Bertolt Brecht, in which Nicholas was chosen for the plum part of Azdak.

He smiles: “Playing Azdak was incredible and being directed by Gari Jones was a perfect end to my time with the youth theatre.

“There was a scene where I would emerge from these doors to screaming fans. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? It was like having my very own X Factor.”

But Nicholas wasn’t intent on just being on the stage, he wanted to know all about it. His go-getting attitude, and desire to learn more about the theatre, led to a stint following director Tony Casement on Through the Leaves.

He adds: “I wanted to learn about the process of making theatre so I asked Tony whether I could just sit in on the rehearsals for Through the Leaves.

“I literally just watched how Tony worked and how he got things from the actors. I also kept a big book and wrote down loads of stuff.”

He must have got the bug, because during Through the Leaves he asked Mercury artistic director Dee Evans whether he could then follow her in the company’s production of King David, and then Gari Jones, when he directed a Harold Pinter double bill at the end of last year.

“I was assistant director on that,” Nicholas grins. “Working with Gari was great. In fact, seeing how all three directed was a fascinating way of seeing how different directors work.”