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“It fills me with dismay sometimes when you look at the scripts that do come to you, that are primarily focused on violence.There are so many other things to play around with.” His career, he says, has been “a slow climb. He joined a circus in Budapest straight out of his school in Coventry – he grew up in the Midlands - to get his equity card.

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“I leave the rehearsal room – and I carry him with me, I carry his thoughts, I dream his dreams a little bit.” It’s a role that many non-theatre goers associate with Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Proctor in the 1996 film.How does Armitage feel to be up against that performance? And I think there are some monumental performances in it.“I think if you’ve got stuff to hide, there’s a level of stress that people live with.I think I read somewhere that someone said I was fiercely protective of my private life, and I thought well, there’s nothing fierce about protecting a private life. And in a way the shyness is me protecting other people from that.Can it escape that allegory and find another, I ask him.

“It’s ultimately a timeless play, I think,” says Armitage.

Television viewers who associate him with double agent Lucas North in Spooks, nasty Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood, or the character based on SAS man Andy Mc Nab in Sky One’s Strike Back would know different. Armitage is to play the tormented John Proctor in the playwright’s terrifying account of the 17th century Salem witch trials, in which Proctor’s adulterous relationship with a young woman sparks a vengeful chain of events that leads to the deaths of many.

The Crucible is an unfolding nightmare of accusatory spite that is seen as an allegory of the anti-Communist witch trials in Hollywood in the 1950s.

“Having a box office figure next to your name is unbelievably important when it comes to certain castings.

But I don’t think it would have made a difference coming to the Crucible.” And after 13 years of concentrating on film and television, returning to the stage is a very big deal for him.

You know to an extent Method acting feels occasionally lazy. That’s the difference, and that was the thing with the waterboarding.