Whalley actress Joanna’s leading role in new show

Joanna Lavelle as Bridget Sullivan.
Joanna Lavelle as Bridget Sullivan.

A Ribble Valley actress has secured the main part in a gripping one-woman show about the infamous Lizzie Borden.

Joanna Lavelle, who is based in Whalley, is taking the part of the Borden family’s Irish maid Bridget Sullivan, who was one of the key witnesses at Lizzie’s trial, during the show at Buxton Fringe Festival later this month.

Ninety years ago this month, the infamous Lizzie Borden died. She was tried and acquitted for the double axe murders of her father and her step-mother in the family home in Massachusetts.

Local opinion was split between those who thought she was guilty and those who couldn’t believe that a woman could commit such an act of violence. Despite these strongly held views Lizzie was acquitted of the murders.

Bridget was one of the key witnesses at the trial and the show Lace Curtains Irish by American playwright Carolyn Gage starts with Bridget, played by Joanna, reading Lizzie’s obituary and gradually remembering the events of the double murder some 40 years before.

This gripping story will have audiences on the edge of their seats, and there is a twist at the end.

“It was a particularly gruesome murder,” said Joanna, “The play will take the audience into the oppressive atmosphere of one hot August afternoon in Massachusetts in 1892 which ended with two blood-soaked bodies.”

Lace Curtains Irish will be preceded by a short monologue called Crossing the Line by Michael Sheath.

“I thought the two plays would complement each other really well,” said Joanna. “They are both about dark family secrets.

“Michael’s story starts with the police knocking on the door at 6-30 in the morning. Just an ordinary suburban home but Diane discovers that her husband Geoff has a dark secret.

“As she says ‘my whole, settled undisturbed life goes down the toilet’.”

Lace Curtains Irish and Crossing the Line are part of the Buxton Fringe Festival and will be on in the Hadden Room at the Palace Hotel on July 21st and 22nd. Tickets are available through Buxton Opera House Box Office – www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk