Nigel Harman plays Ricky Roma in the UK tour of David Mamet’s multi award-winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross

Nigel Harman is known to millions of television viewers for his role as Dennis Rickman in more than 300 episodes of EastEnders.

He has also played Bradley in Mount Pleasant on Sky One; Green in ITV’s fourth series of Downton Abbey; Sam in Hotel Babylon on BBC1; and has made guest appearances in Cuckoo, Miss Marple: The Mirror Crack’d and Lark Rise to Candleford.

His film credits include Telstar and Blood Diamond. Nigel last performed at Bath’s Theatre Royal in 2012 when he starred as Charles Surface in The School for Scandal and prior to that in The Pirates of Penzance in 1998. His West End stage credits include the roles of Lord Farquaad in Shrek The Musical - for which he won the 2012 Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical; Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls; and Pip and Theo in Jamie Lloyd’s Olivier Award nominated production of Three Days of Rain. Here the Olivier Award-winning stage actor and former EastEnders star talks about appearing in David Mamet’s trailblazing, high-pressure drama Glengarry Glen Ross.

What’s Glengarry Glen Ross about?

It’s about a group of salesmen in 1980s Chicago who are in a tense sales competition. Someone will win a Cadillac, someone will get a set of steak knives and the other two will get fired, so basically their lives are in the balance. At the same time, the office gets broken into and it’s likely to have been one of our main protagonists, so it’s also a whodunit. It’s one of the great American plays written in the last 40 years.

You play Ricky Roma. What’s he like?

It’s a brilliant part to play and it’s incredibly challenging. Ricky Roma is very bright. He’s street smart. He presents himself as a happily married man, but he can be one of the lads too. He can be whatever he needs to be to make a sale and he’s very good at it. Morally his compass is a long way off, but if you get caught in his tractor beam you think he’s really cool. It’s only afterwards you realise he’s probably been speaking a load of rubbish and he’s just taken 40 grand from you.

His moral flexibility makes him really interesting to play. Playing these kinds of guys, where everything is said in your face and confrontationally is brilliant, because as British people we are much more polite.

The play is more than 30 years old. What gives it its longevity?

I think it’s really interesting looking at it through a prism of today, because this is set in 1983 and these guys are already becoming obsolete. Their skills, their mindset, their brash demeanor; they realise everything they’ve given value to is rapidly becoming less valuable. But you could also argue that the guy sitting in the White House at the moment comes from that salesman era, so it’s still so relevant.

Though it was first written as a play, many people will know it better as the Oscar-nominated film. What does seeing it on stage bring to the story?

You’re right, it was written as a play, which is a massive thing. It’s designed to be live. The film is really good, but I think the play is better.

Live theatre is special because you can smell it. Literally. It’s live and every evening is unique. Whatever you come in with as an actor will definitely affect how you interpret the show. The way the audience has travelled, if they’ve had a really good day at work, if they’ve had a hard day, if it’s raining outside – everything is set up for that one moment, that unique evening.

If you get moved in the theatre it’s so much more powerful than being moved by the screen. You’re in the room with us. We’re going to make you feel every second of this. You may not like us or you may love us, you may find us funny, you may laugh even though you don’t want to, you may find us offensive, but you’re all in the room together and it creates thought.

Are you excited about touring the production?

I’ve never done weekly touring before, so I’m really looking forward to it. I love the fact that we’re bringing the show to your house, your local theatre. I like that it’s us coming to you, that we get to be in your house, walk around your streets and your town.

How important is touring theatre?

It’s wildly important. I think it’s the lifeblood of theatre, I really do. I think that’s where theatre needs to sit, as part of communities in our local rep theatres.

How will you spend your days on tour?

I’m definitely going to do a bit of running. I want to get fit. I want to do some running and swimming and also learn French!

People still recognise you most still from EastEnders. Looking back, what was that experience like?

It was quite a rollercoaster ride. I look back on the whole thing and I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of that show which is still doing its thing. One day I’d like to sit down and watch an episode. I was always working, so I never watched that much of it. Maybe one day I can go back and direct an episode to be part of that gang again, because they’re a really special bunch.

There are some people who think I’ve retired, just because I’m no longer in EastEnders! It’s wonderful to be part of it and it’s wonderful to be reasonably famous for a small moment in this country, but it’s certainly not the be all and end all.

What can audiences expect from a trip to see Glengarry Glen Ross?

You can expect a rollercoaster ride of a show. It’s in your face, it’s provocative and it’s evocative of the time, but it also really makes you laugh. The brilliant thing about this show is we’ll be down by 9.30. You can go and have a three-course meal afterwards, if you want, and still be home by 11.30. It’s literally my perfect theatre outing.

Are you looking forward to touring to the Theatre Royal Bath?

I’m looking forward to Bath. I was in Bath quite a few years ago and I really like that theatre and really love the town.

To buy tickets for Glengarry Glen Ross, call the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or book online at