Naomi Clarke, PA Entertainment Reporter
Former EastEnders actress Josephine Melville has died backstage after performing in a play at Nottingham Playhouse.
The theatre said Melville, who played Tessa Parker in the BBC soap opera, died on Thursday after appearing in their production of Nine Night.
She received assistance from first aiders and an audience member who was medically qualified until paramedics arrived but she died at the scene, the venue confirmed.
We are deeply saddened that last night (20 Oct) the actor Josephine Melville, passed away following the performance of Nine Night, our co-production with Leeds Playhouse.
Our thoughts and deep condolences are with her family and loved ones. https://t.co/O9qnBGXqkR pic.twitter.com/h1pCfchXPh
— Nottingham Playhouse (@NottmPlayhouse) October 21, 2022
A statement shared by the theatre 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.”
Paying tribute to Melville, Nottingham Playhouse described her as a “truly wonderful and well-loved person” and a “revered and deeply respected performer, director, producer, archivist and writer”.
It added that all the company and staff of Nine Night, which is a co-production between Leeds Playhouse and Nottingham Playhouse, are in a “state of shock”.
The actress made her first appearance in EastEnders in 1986 and she also featured in Casualty and The Bill.
During her career, she also often performed on stage including in productions of Sleeping Beauty in 2018 and Sinbad The Sailor in 2016 for Theatre Royal Stratford East, where she also sat on their board.
We are devastated to learn of the sudden passing of our dear friend and colleague Jo Melville. Jo was on our Board and most recently appeared on stage in our panto, Sleeping Beauty. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/RHAT5JxDJj
— Theatre Royal Stratford East (@stratfordeast) October 22, 2022
Theatre Royal Stratford East said they were “devastated” to learn of the death of their “dear friend and colleague” in a tribute posted to Twitter.
Sharing photos of Melville’s time at the theatre, they added: “She has long been part of the Stratford East family and will be greatly missed by all of us.
“Our deepest condolences go out to her friends and family at this difficult time.”
The 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.”
The chief executive and artistic director of Leeds Playhouse, James Brining, added: “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.”
All remaining performances of Nine Night at Nottingham Playhouse have been cancelled.