There’s a distinct affability and benevolent persona to actress Anita Dobson that makes for a charismatic performer, and it’s one that paved the way for an open, sincere discussion about her latest endeavour, London Road, deriving from the successful stage play of the same name. The film chronicles the harrowing events that took place in 2006, of the serial murders of local prostitutes – from the perspective of the neighbours, unwittingly caught up in it all.

“When they first did the musical at the National, I thought it was a bit too soon,” she said. “I was in Ipswich when the murders were happening, I was doing a pantomime there bizarrely. It was very difficult to get people to come and see the show when girls were being murdered. But I have to say, for me, doing the film was an extraordinary piece of closure and I’m very glad I did it. I think the people of Ipswich will be proud of that film because it pays tribute to the dead girls, and what it says, is that this should never happen. People shouldn’t have to live like this. The girls have since got off drugs and off the streets and the community was cleaned up and they all bonded together. It’s like the war, isn’t it? Some atrocity happens and everyone gets together and the best part of them comes through. That’s what’s happened in this situation. Something good has come out of something awful.”

For Dobson, it’s that inspiring sense of optimism which made for such a remarkable project – and for an actress who has been a star of the stage and the screen across decades, with one of most notable turns coming in Eastenders as Angie Watts, just the mere proposition of tackling something so unique, incited her in.

“I talked to people who saw the musical and I saw a clip, and I thought, this is different. It’s strange to get your head around learning it, but I like a challenge and these people are doing something groundbreaking and I want to be part of it. This is an extraordinary piece of work and I’ve never seen anything like this before, certainly not on film.”

In spite of the countless challenges that exist, Dobson felt that it was thanks to director Rufus Norris – who was also at the helm of the stage production – that this entire project was such a triumphant, enjoyable one for the cast and crew.

“When I met Rufus I thought, this guy is brilliant, I want to work with him,” she said. “Rufus has become a brilliant film director. There’s not anything the man can’t do. He’s the best you can get. Not only is he open to change and listening to what’s going on around him, and what others have to contribute – but he has a very clear vision of what he wants to do with something”

“He’s also an incredibly nice man, so you got the feeling that whatever problems arose, as they always do on film sets, he would deal with them in a calm way. There was never ay ruffled feathers, we all came in and gave 100% and had a great time, and were keen to get back the next day – and that’s down to him.”

One of the challenges is performing such nuanced lyrics within the music, which includes the vocal patterns of the neighbours – as it’s their interviews to the press which make up the lyrics to the soundtrack.

“They played them every time before you went on – you never got away from the tapes, they were in your ear all the time until you shot and they were taken out in the last minute,” Dobson said. “I did meet the real June, on the day we shot the street party, the residents were invited on to the set, so I was playing June and looking at the real June sitting in my June’s chair – it was surreal and extraordinary. But there was a sort of mad gaiety about it, it was a celebration of the film finishing, and here were the people there were actually there, now celebrating the film with us. Plus, the girls that were left benefited, because they didn’t want it to happen to them. It was remarkable on two levels, because it’s a brilliant piece of art, and it did something good. It made people want to change things.”

Despite meeting the real June – the character Dobson is portraying in the movie – she wasn’t fortunate enough to bump into co-star Tom Hardy however, though that’s not to say she wasn’t aware he was on set.

“We didn’t meet at all sadly, but we did share a Winnebago. Not together, separately. But Tom was filming when I wasn’t there, but I know there was a little flurry of activity on set the days he was due to arrive.”

Both Dobson and Hardy’s characters are mere bystanders, shocked, appalled and moved by the events that transpired. For the former, it was difficult to imagine what it must have been like being in such close proximity to somebody so troubled.

“I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like living next door to him,” she said. “You never understand it – you can’t begin to. What gets in to some nutcase’s mind that they want to do things like that? I saw a documentary about the killer and they spoke to his brother and he could not comprehend it. He didn’t have a moment’s clue. Then you think of people who are married to serial killers – and you want to go, how come you didn’t know? But people don’t want to know. They don’t want to know about something that awful, that they can’t believe it. What this film does do though, is make you realise that people get so screwed up in this world that their brains get fried and they behave in a way that is totally inappropriate. You know, he had a good upbringing and he was in service for a while – so what was the point where your brain suddenly thought this was okay? I don’t think any of us can understand that.”

However Dobson, whose positive outlook and enthusiasm for life shone throughout the entirety of our time together – admits that, and despite the difficulties in doing so, sometimes we have to try and find it within ourselves to comprehend the situation, and let the goodness overcome any negative feelings; a message she hopes is being preached from this innovative feature film.

“There’s a character in the film who says he deserved what he had coming and so did those girls,” she explains. “There is a part of everybody who can think that way. If somebody hurt a child of mine I’d want to kill them, it’s natural, it’s human nature. It’s instinct, an animal would do it. Simple as that. But you have to try and get beyond it when somebody does it irrationally like that – you have to try and understand it, and fight that war, fight for the good part of you and push away those bad thoughts. They will come, it doesn’t matter who you are, we all get them – and I think in a situation like this, it highlights that, and this is trying to say that yes, it’s normal to have those reactions.”

“But the better part of you says, what we have to do is put him in a place where he can’t hurt anybody else and try and understand why he’s doing this, and get to people who are like that educate them that there is a better way, and that is not the way to behave. Some you can reach, some you can’t, but that’s life. Life is complicated.”

London Road is released on June 12th.