THE next generation of a famous acting family takes to the stage in London tonight for the opening night of a play receiving its world premiere.

Joe McArdle stars in Gate at the Cockpit Theatre, a comedy which looks at what happens when four characters arrive at the gates of heaven.

For Joe, 25, the production is the latest step forward in a career which has seen him establish himself as a stand-up comedian and writer as well as an actor.

“When people ask me what I am I actually don’t really know what to say,” he said. “I say maybe an actor because since I was 15 or 16 that’s what I wanted to do.”

It’s no surprise that Joe developed a desire to act. His dad John is one of our best loved TV and stage actors best known for Brookside and most recently Emmerdale, and his mum is Burnley-born actress Kathy Jamieson.

Growing up in the Ribble Valley Joe attended Bowland High School before going to St Mary’s College, Blackburn, He then did a degree in theology and English at Edinburgh University.

“When really little I did things at Burnley Youth Theatre and then did amateur stuff in the Ribble Valley,” said Joe. “When I was about 16 I went down to London for two weeks to the National Youth Theatre and that was the biggest thing I’d ever done.”

But in spite of this, Joe isn’t a product of stage school.

“I’ve never trained. I’ve never been to drama school,” he said. “But part of me quite likes that.”

It was at university that Joe’s passion for acting and comedy really took off.

“At Edinburgh I did more acting than I’d ever done, so I think I trained by doing it all the time with people who loved doing it,” he said. "Edinburgh has the oldest student-run theatre in the country so you feel as though you are on a real job.”

Although his parents were both in the profession Joe said they never put pressure on him to shape his career.

“I think they both just wanted me to find something that I wanted to do,” he said.

“I think it has helped that they are both actors. I’ve seen the highs and lows so I know that it’s not a consistent job.

“When I was young we were never able to book holidays because you just never know with an actor.

“It’s not the most comfortable occupation and that can be a shock to people who are starting out.

“I’ve been lucky in a way to have been able to grow up around it and I’ve always had my mum and dad to give me advice.”

Although not in the West End, Joe sees his run in Gate as the next step in furthering his career.

“I’ve also been doing a sketch and stand-up show and I co-wrote and was in a play called Twitchers about birdwatchers,” he said. “Bill Oddie came to see it and he was impressed by it.

“There’s a chance we might be able to do that again in the new year.

“My main passion would be writing comedy plays and I like to be able to combine all the things I love - comedy, writing and acting.”

Gate runs at the Cockpit Theatre until next Saturday and Joe hopes his parents will be able to make it down to London to see him.

“They are always honest when come to see me in anything but I wouldn’t want them to be anything else,” he said.