Tributes pour in for ex-EastEnders actress Josephine Melville who died backstage after theatre performance
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Tributes have poured in for actress Josephine Melville, who died on Thursday night, (October 20) after appearing in a production at Nottingham Playhouse. The Essex-born performer was best known for her role as Tessa Parker in the long-running soap EastEnders during the 1980s, along with her other notable work such as The Bill and Casualty.
According to a statement released by the venue on Friday (October 21), Melville had just finished appearing in the theatre’s production of Nine Night when she suddenly became ill backstage. She was given medical attention by paramedics and a medically qualified member of the audience, but she sadly died at the scene.
Paying tribute to the actress, the company said: “We are deeply saddened to announce that last night the actor Josephine Melville, passed away backstage at Nottingham Playhouse following the performance of the play Nine Night, in which she was performing.
“Josephine’s family have been informed, and our thoughts and deep condolences are with them. The entire company, and staff at both theatres are in a state of shock.” Nottingham Playhouse added that all remaining performances of Nine Night at the venue have been cancelled. Melville had been playing the role of Auntie Maggie in the production, and was described as “truly wonderful” and “well-loved person”.
Chief Executive of Nottingham Playhouse, Stephanie Sirr, said: “We send our love and condolences to Jo’s family and friends. On a deeply tragic and extremely difficult evening we want to pay tribute to the company of Nine Night and to the whole Nottingham Playhouse team who managed the situation with empathy and professionalism.”
Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Leeds Playhouse, James Brining, said: “We are profoundly saddened by Jo’s passing and add our condolences to her family and loved ones. We were truly honoured to work with her on this wonderful co-production of Nine Night and are doing everything we can to support her family, the company and staff across both theatres.”
Many also took to Twitter to pay tributes to the actress , who they deemed as an ‘incredible’ woman. Fellow theatre actor and critic Mark Shenton said: “Heartbreaking news from @NottmPlayhouse yesterday. Condolences to her theatrical family as well as her real one.” Actress Karen Bryson said she was “shocked” and “deeply saddened” by the loss of “incredible” woman. She said: “An inspiration to me and so many. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones. Rest in Paradise Queen.”
A member of the audience who attended one of Melville’s plays the night before at Nottingham Playhouse said the actress performed “brilliantly” on stage. He said: “She sang and danced on stage and seemed so full of life. We are deeply shocked and saddened by this news. Sincere sympathies to Josephine’s family and friends. RIP.”