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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Black Roses review: Powerful story simply told

A patch of artificial grass, a bit of carpet and a single armchair was the simple set for a heartbreaking performance at Maryport’s Ewanrigg Community Centre on Wednesday afternoon.

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QUESTION TIME: Actresses Julie Hesmondhalgh, left, and Rachel Austin, with assistant director Alex Summers take questions at Ewanrigg and Netherton Community Centre, Maryport

A PATCH of artificial grass, a bit of carpet and a single armchair was the simple set for a heartbreaking performance at Maryport’s Ewanrigg Community Centre on Wednesday afternoon.

There had been a lot of pre-publicity and excitement about the appearance there of Hayley, actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, from Coronation Street.

But in Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, Julie was not the big Corrie star but simply Sylvia Lancaster, the mother of 20-year-old Sophie who was beaten to death because she dressed and looked different.

Every word spoken by Julie were the words of Sylvia, taken from hours of interviews.

The only other cast member was Rachel Austin, who played Sophie through the words of award winning poet Simon Armitage, who was moved to write about the horrendous true life events of August 11, 2007, when Sophie and her boyfriend Bob were attacked by a group of thugs.

Rachel brought the gentle, loving nature of Sophie Lancaster to life, giving glimpses, too, of a young girl who marched to the beat of a different drum and had enough stubbornness not to be led from her path.

This play was sometimes harrowing and always heartbreaking.

It was taken to Maryport, and then moved on to the Lakes College, Lillyhall, last night.

There will be a final performance today at St Joseph’s School, Workington, at 2.30pm.

The play’s tour of West Cumbria was arranged by the Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven, and if it makes just one person decide to look beyond outward appearances then we all owe it a debt of gratitude.

VIV PATERSON

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