Playhouse, Edinburgh, Tue 20 Nov—Sat1 Dec.

Long before Mr Bateman was a twinkle in Channel 4’s eye, the original Nasty Nick was killing old men and stealing from his mother’s purse. EastEnders bad boy Nick Cotton has been the man we love to hate for over fifteen years, and for actor John Altman he’s been the passport to some of the juiciest storylines on British TV. ‘He’s had heroin addiction, been paralysed from the waist down, lost his son,’ says Altman of his alter ego. ‘It certainly gives me something to get my teeth into.’

But even a hellraiser needs a holiday, and Altman has taken a number of breaks from Albert Square over the years. Although in a world hellbent on typecasting, he’s merely swapped Nick for a string of other loathsome characters on TV, film and stage (‘l’m just happy to keep working,’ says the nonchalant one). For the next twelve months however, he’s playing a more legal form of criminal one decked out in a tux rather than tattoos.

As lawyer Billy Flynn in the hottest musical known to the stage, Altman belts out three numbers, smooches with sultry nightclub dancer Roxie Hart and, in a nice reversal of fortune, becomes a murder victim.

80 what attracted him to the role, as if we need ask? ‘Basically just being part of Chicago,’ says Altman. ‘And it was a refreshing change from EastEnders. My opening number is ‘All | Care About Is Love’, and I come down the stairs surrounded by these beautiful dancers in feathers —-

it’s like a Busby Berkeley routine.’

How awful for him, particularly when he could have been sharing a G&T in the Vic with his ‘ma’. But when a Bob Fosse musical comes calling, it’s hard to refuse, especially one of this calibre. Since opening in London in 1997, Chicago has won both Olivier and Critics Circle Awards, plus copious amounts of praise from all who witness its vaudevillesque splendour. Obviously there’s


SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 29 Nov-Sat 22 Dec.


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much to be said for fishnetted, high-heeled, dancing jailbirds, but what really lies behind the show‘s phenomenal appeal? ‘I guess the slickness of the whole thing,’ suggests Altman. “It doesn't pander to the public in a sickly way, it’s very funny at times and the standard of

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Viewing figures may not reach the twenty million mark as with EastEnders, but for Altman the thrill of a live audience more than makes up for it. ‘You get a quiet buzz from TV people write letters or somebody stops you in the street. But when you get that immediate response in the theatre, it can really lift you up.’ (Kelly Apter)

Stage Whispers

The Talk Of The Green Room

LAST ISSUE, WHISPERS called upon Scottish theatre to respond to events in Afghanistan, and no sooner had we gone to press than 7:84 announced its reply. The News At When . . .?, its newspaper theatre reaction to the stories covered by the media, is on once more, promising a reflection on world events. It also covers major news happenings of the year in general, with such now-forgotten matters as the general election coming under scrutiny. It will also have something to say about the foot and mouth crisis which so blighted Britain’s spring and summer, and continues to pose a threat.

One hopes, though, that these proceedings will show teeth with particular respect to Afghanistan; the reportage we get from the box and mainstream newspapers seems one- sided. I’m beginning to equate our TV anchormen with Moses; every time they open their mouths, bull rushes out, and we urgently require alternative views in order to preserve the pluralistic democracy we’re supposedly defending.

7284’s community outreach programme has also proved valuable in compiling its programme; the community groups that the company has worked with over the past year have contributed more specifically localised satire to the show. Groups from Paisley, Dundee, Glasgow and lnverness will contribute when the show reaches these areas, in the course of a wide-ranging tour, which begins in Kilmarnock on Friday 23 November.

The News At When team