Melville passed away on Thursday night at the Nottingham Playhouse after playing Aunt Maggie, according to a statement from the theater. Before paramedics arrived, she received emergency care from first aid professionals and a spectator, but she passed away there and then. No immediate reason was given.
Leeds Playhouse and Nottingham Playhouse collaborated to produce the piece.
“The entire company, as well as the crew at both theaters, are in shock. Josephine was a great, adored lady who was also a revered and highly esteemed actress, director, producer, archivist, and writer. She was also a fantastic Auntie Maggie in “Nine Night.” the statement said.
All performances of the play were canceled after Melville’s death.
On the long-running British soap “EastEnders,” Melville played Tessa Parker, a college friend of Kelvin Carpenter and Harry Reynolds, in 1986. She appeared for eight episodes. She reappeared in the BBC soap in 2005 as the character Ellie Wright.
Born in Essex, her other acting credits include roles in “The Bill,” “Prime Suspect” and “Casualty.” Last year, Melville was part of “Know Your Roots,” a project that held workshops and recorded interviews across Essex in celebration of and to preserve the history of Black women’s hair. She produced and directed last year’s short thriller “Assistance.”
“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,” said Stephanie Sirr, chief executive of Nottingham Playhouse.
The “Bridgerton” actor Adjoa Andoh paid tribute on Twitter after news of Melville’s death, writing:
“Ach I’m so shocked. A wonderful actress. Amazing comic timing. Part of a community of artists who understood the power of black stories. All blessings & condolences to the family. Full of light, rest in your power Jo.”