In the Crucible Studio, Diveen Henry is turning in a performance of raw energy in debbie tucker green’s hang.
“Capital punishment has come back and this family is a victim of crime and the mother, played by me, gets to decide which style of capital punishment the perpetrator gets,” she explains.
It’s a three-hander in which the mother is locked into a passive-aggressive battle with a pair of box-ticking corporate officials.
When the actor says, “The text gives you so much, that’s what debbie is brilliant at, and it is very specific and precise,” that’s in terms of the language as distinct from plot details and context.
“It’s for the actors to work out what crime has been committed for background but as audience members you are guessing though you could probably work it out from her reaction to it but it is not specifically spelled out, “ says Henry.
Nor is time and place. “We decided it was 2023 because we as actors have got to build that world. It has been said that if there was a referendum like Brexit there would be a vote to bring it back. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve mentioned it to, said bring it back tomorrow.
“We have based it in London because I have a London accent but it could be played in any major British city. Just for us actors to place ourselves we’ve made it East London but you don’t know that from the performance.”
Diveen Henry says she is often cast as a mother, most notably in The Dumping Ground, the spin-off from Tracy Beaker on CBBC.
Her career has taken in more screen, “but the theatre I have done has been good,” she points out.
“I was a year at the RSC and then a long time at the Globe, then I was at the National, and my last one was at the Barbican in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet in 2015.
“So when I do theatre I do theatre. It was quite something, an incredible experience. Honestly, hand on heart, he is one of the nicest lead actors I have ever worked with.”
This is one of her rare forays out of London, although the others are quite impressive – Guadalupe (Death in Paradise), Marseille (the film London River opposite Brenda Blethyn), Paris for a small part in a series called Jo with Jean Reno, and also Cradle to the Grave was filmed in Manchester.
“And I lived in Stratford when I was with the RSC,” she adds.
“I am a South London girl born and bred and from when I was about six I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
“There weren’t that many opportunities as a kid but I joined things, the drama club at school, and then did a drama course at college. Then I thought if I am ever going to get anywhere I will need to go to drama school,” she recounts.
“I couldn’t afford to do that because we were so poor and though they used to have grants back then I got turned down. I made myself a charity and started to write to people.
“Some of my friends’ parents gave money but the person who gave me the majority was Anthony Hopkins. I got me to Webber-Douglas which was honestly the best years of my life.
“Funnily enough later when I was having lunch in South Kensington I saw him walking past and I ran up to him and began to say “your, your…..” I just couldn’t get it out at first to thank him.”
Hang continues at the Crucible Studio until Saturday, March 9.