A PLAY based on the harrowing murder of Haslingden woman Sophie Lancaster moved its audience to tears during its first performance in East Lancashire.

Schoolchildren from Burnley’s Unity College, drama students, and the public were among those at Burnley Youth Theatre to see ‘Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster’.

The play, based on poems by Simon Armitage and an interview with Sophie’s mother, Sylvia, visited Burnley as part of its first tour of community venues outside Manchester. Accrington actress and ex-Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Sylvia, said it was a ‘privilege’ to be part of Sophie’s legacy.

She said: “Sylvia is living through this every day of her life. More than anything, it’s a massive honour to be a part of her work. It’s a huge privil-ege. People are really gett- ing what the play is about.”

Former Haslingden High School student Sophie was attacked in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, in 2007, aged 20, because she was dress-ed in Gothic clothing. Her boyfriend Robert Maltby was also attacked.

Sylvia subsequently set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, an anti-hate crime charity which visits schools to educate youngsters about intol-erance and prejudice.

Rosemary Berkon, 21, from Waterfoot, said: “I usually come into the show and study the techniques. After this, I had nothing to say. It’s all about the real people involved.”

Kailey McGowan, 21, said: “I though the story was beautifully told. The real words and poetry tied in beautifully together.

“I think without the poetry I would have just cried the whole time. A play like this shouldn’t need to be made ever again.”

Blackburn St Mary’s College student Oliver Daley, 17, said: “It made me think: ‘Oh my God, people actually treat other people like that?’”

Sylvia, Julie and Rachel Austin, who plays Sophie, hosted a question-and-answer session with the audience at the Queen’s Park Road theatre after the performance.

Sylvia said: “We work to keep Sophie’s mem- ory alive. This play is a big part of that legacy.”