Cathy Murphy in Martina Cole's Two Women

I VE read all Martina Cole s books, so to get a chance to play one of her characters in the first theatre production of her work is brilliant. Actress Cathy Murphy is speaking in a break from rehearsals of Two Women, at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

I'VE read all Martina Cole's books, so to get a chance to play one of her characters in the first theatre production of her work is brilliant."

Actress Cathy Murphy is speaking in a break from rehearsals of Two Women, at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

I point out that it's the world premiere. "So, no pressure then," replies Cathy.

"I am feeling nervous, but it is still very exciting."

The play opened on Friday and runs until March 20. Cathy, best known for TV roles as Tilly in hit 1990s BBC drama House of Eliott and Trisha Taylor in EastEnders (she will also be seen as D'reen in Shameless, Channel 4 on Tuesday), plays Sue Dalston.

Danger and violence have always been part of Sue's East End upbringing. Unloved by her mother, abused by her father, and brutalised throughout her entire marriage, she smashes her husband's skull with a claw hammer in a final act of desperation.

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All that keeps her sane is knowing that her four children are safe from harm.

In prison, she shares a cell with murderess Matilda Enderby and their fates become inextricably linked.

The story weaves a hard-hitting tale of betrayal, heartbreak, justice and redemption, full of twists and turns.

Cathy says: "One of the things I like about Martina's stories is that they are set in this area, an area I know so well.

"Her book, The Ladykiller has freaked me out ever since because it's all in this area and the bloke in the story reminds me of my accountant - I still can't look him in the eye!"

"And, although they are gritty, they are not all doom and gloom. There's some wonderful gallows humour.`"

Cathy grew up in Ilford and went to Canon Palmer School in Aldborough Road, Seven Kings. She still lives in Seven Kings with her partner and their two young children.

"It's great to be working so close to home. Normally when you're working on TV, you're always heading off to west London or south London.

"Working at the Theatre Royal means I don't have to leave home until the children have gone to bed, then I just hop on the train and in a couple of stops I'm at Stratford."

Although Cathy, 42, has been acting since she was a child, this is her first work at the TRSE, Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford.

She says: "It's such a buzzy theatre, a fun environment. The people are nice, there's stuff going on all the time.

"There's free music every night."

So how does acting in the theatre differ from working on television?

"On TV, very often you don't meet the other actors before you start filming. Suddenly you have to do a scene with a complete stranger.

"In the theatre you rehearse with them. It's so nice to meet the people you'll be working with and get to know them a bit."

In this case, those people include fellow TV actors Victoria Alcock (Julie Saunders in Bad Girls) Laura Howard (Cully Barnaby in Midsomer Murders), Sally Oliver (Lexi Nicholls in Emmerdale) and Marc Bannerman (Gianni di Marco in EastEnders).

Cathy also likes having a live audience and the chance to make slight changes from one performance to another.

Tickets range from �8 to �22 from the box office on 020 8534 0310.

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