Heather Chasen

Heather Jean Chasen (20 July 1927 – 22 May 2020) was an English actress, known for her roles in soap operas; playing Valerie Pollard in the ITV soap opera, Crossroads, from 1982 to 1986[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 to 1977, and appeared in the television series Marked Personal from 1973 to 1974. She played the recurring role of Lydia Simmonds in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, a role which received positive reviews from critics and EastEnders crew and cast members. Furthermore, she appeared extensively in theatre productions and film; in 2012, she appeared in a film version of Les Misérables.

Heather Chasen
Heather Chasen.jpg
Heather Jean Chasen

(1927-07-20)20 July 1927
Died22 May 2020(2020-05-22) (aged 92)
Marylebone, London, England
Years active1945–2014
Notable work
See below
Marked Personal
Parent(s)F.N. Chasen
Agnes H. McCullock

Early and personal lifeEdit

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 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 was 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, Chasen 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]

Chasen died on 22 May 2020, aged 92.[9]


Crossroads and EastEndersEdit

I did an episode where I played this journalist which they must have quite liked because they got back to me about a month later. [They asked me] 'Would you come back and join the cast and change the colour of your hair?' Well, I said okay and so I changed my [hair] colour from red to blonde and I looked exactly the same! I didn't look any different at all. And so then I came back as this naughty lady, Valerie Pollard. The most fun I had was when I was helping out behind the bar which is a very good place to be if you're in a soap because you're in every scene. I was very happy, it was a fun time, I enjoyed it. At the beginning, not at the very end. When I first joined it, for the first few months I was in, it was great fun but after Jack (the producer) went it became less good and less fun and I didn't enjoy it so much".

— Chasen describing her time on Crossroads, from 1982 to 1986[1]

In 2011, Chasen was cast as Lydia Simmonds, Janine Butcher (Charlie Brooks)'s maternal grandmother and Norman Simmonds' (George Layton) mother,[10] in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, after the original actress Margaret Tyzack had to pull out of the role due to personal reasons.[11] Two episodes featuring Tyzack had already been broadcast,[12][13] and she featured in a further one on 14 April.[14] Chasen was cast and replaced Tyzack in the role, beginning filming on 15 April [11] 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 workEdit

Chasen appeared in other television programmes such as The Bill and The Harry Hill Show.[4] She had guest roles in Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green[21] and voiced a number of characters in the radio show The Navy Lark, particularly WREN Heather Chasen and "battle axe" Ramona Povey.[22] In soaps, she 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 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 last plays was My Three Angels in which she played Madame Parole,[4] other plays included, 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 nominationsEdit

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 1963–1965.[4] She appeared in the cast of the Seasons of Mists which won a number of awards internationally.[27]


Year Title Role
1949 Meet the Duke Carol
1971 Naughty! Victorian Madame
Suburban Wives Kathy Lambert
1972 Commuter Husbands Wife
On the Game Madame
1976 The Deadly Females Frances
1989 The Plot to Kill Hitler The Baroness
2000 The Kiss of Tosca Tosca
2003 The Toybox Gran
2009 Season of Mists Jane
2010 The Social Network Matt's wife
2011 Cat Run Bingham's Mom
2012 Les Misérables Madame Magloire
Year Title Role Notes
1960 No Hiding Place Brenda 1 episode
The Cheaters Mary Calder
The World of Tim Frazer Helen Baker 6 episodes
Danger Man Helen Hamilton 1 episode
1961 Lorain Zameda
Walk a Crooked Mile Angela Charles
Inspector Maigret Guest
Dixon of Dock Green Laura Beckley
1962 Saki Agnes Huddle
Dixon of Dock Green Stella Judd
1963 Jezebel ex UK Rita Lorraine
Suspense Clarice Morrison
1965 The Newcomers Caroline Kerr
1967 Z-Cars Pamela Raven 2 episodes
1969 Call My Bluff Herself 1 episode
1973–1974 Marked Personal Isabel Neal 84 episodes
1977 Play of the Month: Waste Lady Julia Farrant 1 episode
1978 A Traveller in Time Mary, Queen of Scots 3 episodes
1981 Ladykillers Mrs. Martinetti 1 episode
1982 Crossroads Reporter
Young Sherlock: The Mystery of the Manor House Aunt Rachel 5 episodes
1982–1986 Crossroads Valerie Pollard Unknown
1983 Shades of Darkness Minor Role 1 episode
1989 Heat of the Day Mrs Kelway
1990 Who Bombed Birmingham Margaret Thatcher
1992 The Eligible Bachelor The Hon Amelia
Surgical Spirit Sabatini's Mother
2003, 2010 Holby City Sylvie Leigh 2 episodes
2003 The Bill Mrs. Belstram 1 episode
The All New Harry Hill Show Betty
2012, 2014
Doctors Norma
Ida Price
Grace Barberry
4 episodes
2005 Casualty Bessie Symes 1 episode
Family Affairs Madge Bennett 5 episodes
2011 EastEnders Lydia Simmonds 11 episodes
2013 Dancing on the Edge Lady Altringham 1 episode
Year Title Role
1959–1977 The Navy Lark WRN 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)
Mrs Granthimum
Norwegian waitress
Dolores "the Danglers"
Miss Esmeralda Crimp
Leading Wren Felicity Pertwee
The Mayoress of Whittlesea Bay
1st Officer Anastasia Pertwee
Grotty Gertie
1966 The Embassy Lark HE Fatima Soriaya Fazalik, Turkish Ambassador to Tratvia
1967 Sexton Blake adventures Paula Dane
Year Title Role
1945 Donna Clarines Marcella
1954 Blood Wedding Leonardo's wife
1958 Little Eyolf Rita Allmers
Templeton Anna Dasousa
The Mousetrap Mollie Ralston
1960 The Lizard of the Rock Main Role
1962 A Midsummer Night's Dream Helena
Policy for Murder Lee Miller
1963 The Maids Solange
1963, 1964, 1965 A Severed Head Antonia Lynch Gibbon
1966 Love from Liz Nancy Morrow
Jorrocks Mrs Barnington
Thriller of the Year Gillian Howard
1967 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha
1967–1968 Call me Jacky Countess
Gina Ekdal
The Wild Duck
Jacqueline du Bois
1969 Forty Years On Matron
Lady S Lady Susan
1970 Lady Frederick Marchioness of Mereston
1970–1972 The Pleasure of his Company Katherine Daugherty
1971 Hello and Goodbye Hester
The Amorous Prawn Mrs. Fitzadam
The Magistrate Queen Margaret
Richard III
1972 Children of the Wolf Helena
1973 Baby Love Mrs. Taylor
1975 Hay Fever Judith Bliss
Butterflies Are Free Mrs. Baker
Madame de Sade Alison
Comtesse de Saint Fond
1977 Rebecca Beatrice Lacy
1978 Murder in a Bad Light Olivia Waynward
1979 The Eagel Has Two Heads Edith de Berg
The Man Who Came To Dinner Miss Preen
1994 A Murder is Announced Miss Marple
1996 Black Chiffon Nanny
1997 School Girls in Uniform The Headmistress
1999 Sweet Bramleys June
Laying the Ghost Freda
2000 Getting On Minor Role
2001 Mountain Language Elderly Lady
2002 My Three Angles Madame Parole
2006 The Rat Trap Burrage the Maid
2008 Pardon Ma Prime Minister Lead Role


  1. ^ a b c Watkins, Mike (21 April 2011). "Heather Chasen from Kings Oak to Walford". Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Cast". The Navy Lark Collection (Booklet). The Navy Lark. BBC Audiobooks Ltd.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e Michael, Nicholas (13 May 2011). ""Frederick Nutter "Mickey" Chasen". Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "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. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. 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.
  8. ^ "A Stage of Development". Youtube. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  9. ^ Actress Heather Chasen dies aged 92
  10. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (12 June 2011). "'EastEnders' casts Lydia's estranged son". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  11. ^ a b Kilkelly, Daniel (12 April 2011). "'EastEnders' recasts Janine's grandmother". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  12. ^ Director: Jamie Annett; Executive Producer: Bryan Kirkwood; Writer: Pete Lawson (5 April 2011). "Episode dated 05/04/2011". EastEnders. BBC. BBC One. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  13. ^ Director: Jamie Annett; Executive Producer: Bryan Kirkwood; Writer: Pete Lawson (9 April 2011). "Episode dated 07/04/2011". EastEnders. BBC. BBC One. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  14. ^ Director: Karl Neilson; Executive Producer: Bryan Kirkwood; Writer: Simon Ashdown (14 April 2011). "Episode dated 14/04/2011". EastEnders. BBC. BBC One. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  15. ^ Director: John Greening; Executive Producer: Bryan Kirkwood; Writer: Christopher Reason (21 April 2011). "Episode dated 21/04/2011". EastEnders. BBC. BBC One. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  16. ^ "Heather Chasen takes on EastEnders' role". BBC. BBC Online. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  17. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (June 2011). "Janine is distraught as Lydia passes away". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  18. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (June 2011). "Lydia's death sparks suspicions over Janine". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  19. ^ Kilkelly, Daniel (18 July 2011). "Exclusive: Bryan Kirkwood - 'EastEnders' executive producer". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi UK. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  20. ^ "The Big Interview. "I dont want Janine to kill Pat!"". Inside Soap. Hachette Filipacchi UK (30): 32. 30 July – 5 August 2011.
  21. ^ "EastEnders recasts Janine's gran". What's on TV. IPC Media. 13 April 2011. Archived from the original on 2 September 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  22. ^ a b c "Time out:Looking back". Daily Post. Liverpool: MGN Ltd. 30 April 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  23. ^ Director: Natasha Carlish; Executive Producer: Mike Hobson and Peter Eryl Lloyd; Writer:Toby Walton (23 February 2012). "Flipping Cats". Doctors. BBC. BBC One. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
  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.
  25. ^ Billington, Michael (1 December 2006). "The Rat Trap". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  26. ^ a b "A wink at a taxing problem". Birmingham Mail. (Free Library). 3 May 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  27. ^ a b c d e Balavage, Catherine (20 April 2011). "Seasons Of Mist; UK Premiere Held At Odeon Covent Garden". Frost Magazine. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  28. ^ "Heather Chasen". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 25 June 2011.

External linksEdit