Rebecca Scroggs has gone from being a fiery EastEnder to two tough women of steel in a new play about female politicians in the Labour Party.
Rebecca plays two parts in the two-handed show, written by Sheffield playwright Chris Bush, looking at the city 30 years apart.
She said: “It’s pretty intense, I’ve never done this before. You’re always on, it’s always you. It’s hard work but very good.
“It’s the story of women in the Labour Party and it’s about how has the Labour Party changed over 30 years?
“I play two women who for different reasons are outsiders. They are mixed race women but one, Josie, is very much a local girl. She has her own challenges to be accepted in a more traditional Labour Party.
“She doesn’t feel the local party is a place for her, which has a lot to do with her own perceptions of who she is and what goes on.”
Josie’s story is set against the backdrop of the city trying to see a way forward following the decline of the steel industry.
Although an activist, she isn’t convinced that she can thrive as a councillor but another member, Dai, an older man played by Nigel Betts, persuades her that she should run for the council.
“He says she should be the change that she wants to be in the world, it’s the only way you’re going to get any,” said Rebecca.
“In 2018, Vanessa is very much part of the metropolitan liberal elite. There’s a lot of fun to be had with her. She incorporates a lot of stereotypes of the Westminster politician.”
A former MP, Vanessa is determined to run as Labour’s candidate as the first elected mayor in the home city she hasn’t visited for 25 years.
“Corbyn supporters are talking about values that have been lost for many years. She wants to win politically, professionally and emotionally.
“She comes up against resistance from the local party.” The local party stalwarts resent an outsider coming in, said Rebecca.
She is a big fan of Chris Bush’s script. “It’s very witty and sharp. The language is of a natural conversation.
“It’s a bit like W1A or The Thick Of It, there’s a lot of back and forth.”
She added: “They use language to hide what they really think and feel, to hide and defend themselves.”
Language is important to Dai in 1988, terrified of saying something to offend Josie, said Rebecca. “He is incredibly politically correct for a man in 1988. He is so careful about using the right terms and not offending her.”
Josie isn’t easily offended. “I think it’s funny how he does that. You can’t be a woman in steel without developing a thick skin.”
Her second character is different: “Vanessa, rightly or wrongly, is offended by everything. She should be, it matters. She is much more prickly.”
Rebecca played feisty firefighter Fiona 'Tosh' Mackintosh in EastEnders, leaving the show four years ago.
She said: “It feels like a long time ago. I was glad to have done it. Where I am now, back doing plays and a variety of roles, feels much more me. I know what that show and lifestyle is like now.”
Rebecca will be back on TV next year, in a comedy called Flack which has been made for UKTV, about celebrity public relations. It stars Anna Paquin, who won an Oscar in 1994 for The Piano. She said: “It’s very funny, a brilliant script.”