Herbert, a one-time womaniser with a yen for Yeats and Verdi, is now in his twilight years and living with acute memory loss. He settles back in his armchair and looks wistfully into the middle distance, as he reveals to his community mental health nurse, Liz, how the coterie of women who used to keep him company has now been replaced by a cacophony of voices in his head. He says he is anxious to avoid medication because he doesn’t want to drown out those voices. “Life’s very dull without my voices,” Herbert sighs. “There’s no one to talk to. Everything drags. I get very lonely without my voices. They’re my only real friends. I’m a prisoner of my past.” This is one of many poignant scenes from Nurse, a new comedy co-written by Paul Whitehouse and David Cummings which begins next week on BBC2. The series is adapted from the well-regarded Radio 4 show, and Whitehouse stars as (nearly) all the patients – including, with the aid of an amazing make-up job, Herbert. These characters are visited in turn by Liz (Esther Coles), a kindly community mental health nurse. Whitehouse exhibits breathtaking versatility as the patients (or, to use the hideous jargon, “service users”), playing everyone from Graham, a morbidly obese, bed-ridden man with an unhealthy dependency on his mother, to Ray, a has-been pop star who had a huge Christmas single in the 1960s that is still a hit in Germany every year and who now suffers from “post-nasal depression”. Surveying such range, it is easy to understand why Johnny Depp, no less, described Whitehouse as “the greatest actor of all time”. Depp underscored his appreciation by making a cameo appearance as one of the victims of the lascivious “Suit you” tailors in The Fast Show season finale in 1994. Whitehouse returned the favour by appearing in Depp’s movies Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, Mortdecai and Corpse Bride.