Heather Chasen

Heather Jean Chasen (born 20 July 1927) is an English actress. Chasen is known for her roles in soap operas; playing Valerie Pollard in the ITV soap opera Crossroads from 1982–86[1] and guest roles in Doctors, Holby City and Family Affairs. Chasen also played many roles in BBC Radio 2's The Navy Lark from 1959–77, and appeared in the television series Marked Personal from 1973–74. She played Lydia Simmonds in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, a role which received positive reviews from critics, EastEnders cast members and crew. Furthermore, she has appeared extensively in theatre productions and film; in 2012, she appeared in a film version of Les Misérables.

Heather Chasen
Heather Jean Chasen

(1927-07-20) 20 July 1927
Years active1945–2014
Notable work
See below
Marked Personal
Parent(s)F.N. Chasen
Agnes H. McCullock

Early and personal life

Chasen was born on 20 July 1927, in Singapore[2] to Agnes H. (née McCullock) and F.N. Chasen, an English ornithologist. Her father fought as a trooper with the Norfolk Yeomanry in World War I.[3] In 1921, he left England to work at the Raffles Library and Museum in Singapore, marrying Chasen's mother, Agnes, in 1926.[3] Chasen's sister, Christine Elizabeth, was born on 4 May 1931.[3] Her parents split up in 1938, and both later remarried.[3]

Before the Japanese occupation, which led to the Battle of Singapore during World War II, Chasen and her mother left Singapore on the last boat before the occupation.[2] Her father, however, on a separate ship, HMS Giang Bee, died when it was sunk by the Japanese on 12 February 1942. Chasen's stepfather, G.C.R. Franks, also died in fighting, on the 22 March.[3] Chasen and her mother moved to the UK and she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she acted on stage and went on tour with Frankie Howerd in Hotel Paradiso.[4] She appeared with Sybil Thorndike in Call Me Jacky,[4] and toured with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in The Pleasure of his Company, in Toronto.[4][5] Chasen is friends with, and previously had a relationship with, Amanda Barrie.[6] In Call Me Jacky, she played an alcoholic lesbian, and later claimed to have based her characterisation partly on the novelist and playwright Patricia Highsmith, whom she knew well.[7]

In 1949 she married John Webster, and they had one son, Rupert, who played in Lindsay Anderson's if.... He also appears with Chasen in a 2013 short documentary, A Stage of Development.[8]


Crossroads and EastEnders

In 2011, Chasen was cast as Lydia Simmonds, Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks)'s maternal grandmother and Norman Simmonds' (George Layton) mother,[9] in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, after the original actress Margaret Tyzack had to pull out of the role due to personal reasons.[10] Two episodes featuring Tyzack had already been broadcast,[11][12] and she featured in a further one on 14 April.[13] The producers wanted to keep Lydia in the show as they had plans for her,[14] so Chasen was cast and replaced Tyzack in the role, beginning filming on 15 April [10] for scenes broadcast from 21 April.[15] EastEnders' executive producer, Bryan Kirkwood, added: "In order to continue the current storyline we've taken the decision for Heather Chasen to take over the role of Lydia."[16] The character died on-screen and Chasen made her last appearance on 13 June 2011,[17] and, though not credited for it, did a voice-over for the 14 and 28 June episodes.[18] Kirkwood later said "Lydia's storyline was perfect" and that Chasen had made the part her own after Tyzack's departure.[19] Brooks said of the storyline as a whole, "I absolutely loved exploring Janine's background. I was really proud with the scenes with Heather Chasen [Lydia]. It was really hard work, but worth it."[20]

Other work

Chasen has appeared in other television programmes such as The Bill and The Harry Hill Show.[4] She has had guest roles in Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green[21] and has voiced a number of characters in the radio show The Navy Lark, most notably WREN Heather Chasen and "battle axe" Ramona Povey.[22] In soaps, she has had four separate appearances in the BBC soap opera Doctors, with her most recent in 2014,[23] reprising her role as Grace Barberry from 2012.[24] She played Sylvie Leigh in Holby City and, for five episodes, Madge Bennet in the Channel 5 soap opera, Family Affairs.[1] Earlier credits include, playing "rich bitches" Caroline Kerr, in The Newcomers and Isabel Neal in Marked Personal, alongside Stephanie Beacham.[4] She also played the "evil" headmistress in Schoolgirls in Uniform at the Battersea Arts Centre.[4] In stage and theatre, Chasen appeared in The Rat Trap. Michael Billington from The Guardian described Chasen's character, Burrage the maid, as "trundling", rating the play three stars.[25] Other than this, she has appeared in Pardon Ma Prime Minister alongside Gerald Flood and Paul Curran, written by Edward Taylor and John Graham who created the BBC radio series The Men from the Ministry.[26] The Birmingham Mail described the play as "hilarious" and "promising".[26] One of Chasen's more recent plays was My Three Angels in which she played Madame Parole,[4] other plays include, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Who Bombed Birmingham playing Margaret Thatcher,[27] and The Lizard of Rock, in which she played the main role,[4][22] appearing alongside actor Jack Hawkins.[22] Chasen opined that she had a "lovely time" playing Miss Marple in A Murder is Announced alongside Richard Todd and Barbara Murray.[4] In 2009, Chasen appeared in the award-winning Anglo-Russian feature film Season of Mists, playing Jane.[27] Chasen appeared alongside Marina Blake, Sergei Chonishvili, Ifan Huw Dafydd and ex-EastEnders actor Dudley Sutton.[27] Other films she has appeared in include, The Kiss of Tosca in 2000, The Toybox in 2003 and Cat Run, a 2011 film.[27][28]

Awards and nominations

Chasen was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, while she appeared in the New York adaptation of A Severed Head between 1963-65.[4] She appeared the cast of the Seasons of Mists which won a number of awards internationally.[27]


Year Title Role Notes
1960No Hiding PlaceBrenda1 episode
The CheatersMary Calder
The World of Tim FrazerHelen Baker6 episodes
Danger ManHelen Hamilton1 episode
1961Lorain Zameda
Walk a Crooked MileAngela Charles
Inspector MaigretGuest
Dixon of Dock GreenLaura Beckley
1962SakiAgnes Huddle
Dixon of Dock GreenStella Judd
1963Jezebel ex UKRita Lorraine
SuspenseClarice Morrison
1965The NewcomersCaroline Kerr
1967Z-CarsPamela Raven2 episodes
1969Call My BluffHerself1 episode
1973–74Marked PersonalIsabel Neal84 episodes
1977Play of the Month: WasteLady Julia Farrant
1978A Traveller in TimeMary, Queen of Scots3 episodes
1981LadykillersMrs. Martinetti1 episode
1982Crossroads Reporter
Young Sherlock: The Mystery of the Manor House Aunt Rachel5 episodes
1982–86Crossroads Valerie PollardUnknown
1983Shades of DarknessMinor Role1 episode
1989Heat of the Day Mrs Kelway
1990Who Bombed BirminghamMargaret Thatcher
1992The Eligible BachelorThe Hon Amelia
Surgical SpiritSabatini's Mother
2003The BillMrs. Belstram
2002Holby CitySylvie Leigh
2003The All New Harry Hill ShowBetty
2005CasualtyBessie Symes
Family AffairsMadge Bennett5 episodes
2006DoctorsIda Price1 episode
2010Holby CitySylvie Leigh
2011EastEndersLydia Simmonds12 episodes
Lydia Simmonds (voiceover)2 episodes
2012, 2014DoctorsGrace Barberry
2013Dancing on the EdgeLady Altringham1 episode
Year Title Role
1949Meet the DukeCarol
1971Naughty!Victorian Madame
1971Suburban WivesKathy Lambert
1972Commuter HusbandsWife
1972On the GameMadame
1976The Deadly FemalesFrances
1989The Plot to Kill Hitler The Baroness
2000The Kiss of ToscaTosca
2003The ToyboxGran
2009Season of MistsJane
2010The Social Network Matt's wife
2011Cat RunBingham's Mom
2012Les MisérablesMadame Magloire
Year Title Role
1959–77The Navy LarkWRN Chasen
Mrs Ramona Povey
Rita Murray
Morpeth Goldstein
Natasha Snogitoff
Lady Quirk
Miss Simpkins
Lady Todhunter-Brown
Lucy Doll
Queen Jaratova
Wren Simkins
Second Officer Maclootie
Lady Hamilton
Myrtle Pertwee
Mrs Sedgwick
Fatima Sumpbolt
Nurse at the RN College, Dartmouth
Renee, daughter of the landlord of the Popple's Head pub and barmaid at the pub
Judith "Judikins" Povey
Exotic & Sultry Tanya (Agent no.5)
Agent No.2 (working for The Mistress)
Norwegian waitress
Dolores "the Danglers"
1966The Embassy LarkHE Fatima Soriaya Fazalik, Turkish Ambassador to Tratvia
1967Sexton Blake adventuresPaula Dane
Year Title Role
1945Donna ClarinesMarcella
1954Blood WeddingLeonardo's wife
1958Little EyolfRita Allmers
TempletonAnna Dasousa
The MousetrapMollie Ralston
1960The Lizard of the RockMain Role
1962A Midsummer Night's DreamHelena
Policy for MurderLee Miller
1963The MaidsSolange
1963, 1964, 1965A Severed HeadAntonia Lynch Gibbon
1966Love from LizNancy Morrow
JorrocksMrs Barnington
Thriller of the YearGillian Howard
1967Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Martha
1967–68Call me JackyCountess
Gina Ekdal
The Wild Duck
Jacqueline du Bois
1969Forty Years OnMatron
Lady SLady Susan
1970Lady FrederickMarchioness of Mereston
1970–72The Pleasure of his CompanyKatherine Daugherty
1971Hello and GoodbyeHester
The Amorous PrawnMrs. Fitzadam
The MagistrateQueen Margaret
Richard III
1972Children of the WolfHelena
1973Baby LoveMrs. Taylor
1975Hay FeverJudith Bliss
Butterflies Are FreeMrs. Baker
Madame de SadeAlison
Comtesse de Saint Fond
1977RebeccaBeatrice Lacy
1978Murder in a Bad LightOlivia Waynward
1979The Eagel Has Two HeadsEdith de Berg
The Man Who Came To DinnerMiss Preen
1994A Murder is AnnouncedMiss Marple
1996Black ChiffonNanny
1997School Girls in UniformThe Headmistress
1999Sweet BramleysJune
Laying the GhostFreda
2000Getting OnMinor Role
2001Mountain LanguageElderly Lady
2002My Three AnglesMadame Parole
2006The Rat TrapBurrage the Maid
2008Pardon Ma Prime MinisterLead Role


  1. Watkins, Mike (21 April 2011). "Heather Chasen from Kings Oak to Walford". Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  2. "Cast". The Navy Lark Collection (Booklet). The Navy Lark. BBC Audiobooks Ltd.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. Michael, Nicholas (13 May 2011). ""Frederick Nutter "Mickey" Chasen". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. "My Three Angels". The Mill At Sonning (Theatre) Ltd. Reading, Berkshire: The Mill At Sonning (Theatre) Ltd. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  5. "Film Obituaries-Douglas Fairbanks Jr". The Daily Telegraph. 8 May 2000. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  6. Morris, Sally (1 December 2002). "Street star Amanda on coming out". Sunday Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  7. Joan Schenkar (18 January 2010). The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith. St. Martin's Press. pp. 664–. ISBN 978-1-4299-6101-1.
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  14. "Enders' granny has ended it". The Sun. News Group Newspapers. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
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  24. Director: Christiana Ebohon; Executive Producer: Mike Hobson and Peter Eryl Lloyd; Writer:Toby Walton (20 August 2014). "Grey Matters". Doctors. BBC. BBC One. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
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  26. "A wink at a taxing problem". Birmingham Mail. (Free Library). 3 May 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
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