Stars flock to fringe theatres

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IT IS now impossible to throw a brick in some parts of north London without hitting a movie superstar who is looking for a poorly paid part in a small, but hip, stage play.

The latest to join the likes of Ralph Fiennes, Kevin Spacey, Juliette Binoche and Nicole Kidman is Ewan McGregor, the Scottish star made famous by his role in the film Trainspotting.

McGregor, 27, opened a seven-week revival of David Halliwell's Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuch last night in the tiny Hampstead Theatre. For this he is being paid pounds 250 a week, considerably less than he was paid in his last role, as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the forthcoming Star Wars prequel.

But his presence will pay the theatre well. Every one of its 174 seats has been sold for the entire run with the exception of a pounds 125-a-seat gala night next week.

McGregor recently said: "If people come along to Hampstead thinking, `That's the guy from Trainspotting', we're going to show them a great play. Maybe then someday they'll go, `Oh, I quite liked that, I'll maybe go to the theatre again.' That's what's fantastic."

He plays rebellious art student Malcolm Scrawdyke, and is appearing in the play partly as a favour to his uncle, Denis Lawson, the star of Local Hero, who inspired his nephew to go into acting. His character plots revenge on his school when he is suspended and with three friends forms The Party of Dynamic Erection.

Nicole Kidman, star of To Die For, has just finished a sell-out run in The Blue Room in which she took off her clothes. But the ubiquitous McGregor, who has stripped for roles in The Pillow Book and Velvet Goldmine, will keep his clothes on in Hampstead