Clare Higgins
Higgins in 2016
Clare Frances Elizabeth Higgins

(1955-11-10) 10 November 1955 (age 68)
Alma materLondon Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Years active1980–present

Clare Frances Elizabeth Higgins (born 10 November 1955) is an English actress. Her film appearances include Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), Small Faces (1996), The Golden Compass (2007) and The Worst Witch (2017-2020).

A six-time Olivier Award nominee for her work in the theatre, Higgins received her first nomination in 1984 for her role as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. She has since won the Olivier Award for Best Actress three times; for Sweet Bird of Youth in 1995, Vincent in Brixton in 2003 and Hecuba in 2005.[1] She made her Broadway debut in 2003 in Vincent in Brixton, receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play.[2] She returned to Broadway in the 2014 revival of A Delicate Balance.

Early life

Higgins, the first of six children, was born in Bradford, to Paula Cecilia (née Murphy) and James Stephen Higgins.[citation needed] Her parents were from working class Irish Catholic backgrounds,[3] and worked as teachers. Higgins was interested in acting since her childhood. After being expelled from a convent school, she ran away from home at seventeen.[3] At 19, she gave birth to a boy, but gave him up for adoption at her social worker's insistence.[3]


At 23, Higgins graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). Through the 1980s, she became a dynamic stage actress, both in London and on Broadway. She starred in the premiere of David Hare's The Secret Rapture, and won the first of her three Olivier Awards in 1995. In 1983, she starred with Ben Cross in the BBC's serial version of A.J. Cronin's The Citadel, playing the role of Christine Manson. For the big screen, Higgins played Julia Cotton in Clive Barker's Hellraiser (1987), based on Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart. She reprised the role for Tony Randel's Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988). Her other film credits include the Scottish film Small Faces (1996). In 2000, she appeared in Catherine Cookson's The Secret mini-series as Maggie Hewitt, as well as in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream (2007) and The Golden Compass (2007).

Higgins appeared as Jocasta in the National Theatre's critically acclaimed production of Oedipus, opposite Ralph Fiennes in the title role. From April to May 2009, she appeared in Wallace Shawn's The Fever at the Royal Court Theatre.[4]

From mid-May to September 2009, she appeared as the Countess Rossillion in All's Well That Ends Well at the National Theatre (Olivier stage).[5]

On 30 September 2012, Higgins appeared in season 3, episode 3 of Downton Abbey as Mrs Bartlett, a friend of Mrs Bates who eventually helps in the release of Mr Bates from prison.[6]

On 14 November 2013, she appeared in the Doctor Who mini-episode "The Night of the Doctor", which starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. Higgins played Ohila, the leader of the Sisterhood of Karn. In 2014, she appeared in the Father Brown episode "The Daughters of Jerusalem" as Dinah Fortescue. Higgins returned to the role of Ohila in 2015 in "The Magician's Apprentice", which originally aired on 19 September 2015, and in the series finale "Hell Bent" on 5 December 2015. The same year, she appeared in EastEnders, as prosecuting lawyer Hazel Warren.

In January 2017, Higgins appeared in CBBC's adaptation of Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch as Miss Ada Cackle, and her wicked twin sister Agatha.

Awards and nominations

Higgins was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1995 (1994 season) for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in Sweet Bird of Youth at the Royal National Theatre. She won the same award in both 2002 and 2005: in 2002 for her performance in Vincent in Brixton performed at the Royal National Theatre, Cottesloe and Wyndham's Theatres, and in 2005 for her performance as Hecuba in the Euripides tragedy at the Donmar Warehouse. She was awarded the 2002 London Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance in Vincent in Brixton. Additionally, she was awarded the 1994 London Critics Circle Theatre Award (Drama Theatre) for Best Actress for her performances in The Children's Hour and Sweet Bird of Youth. She was also awarded the 2002 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress for her performance in Vincent in Brixton at the Donmar Warehouse in London. In 2003, she was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actress in a Play for Vincent in Brixton on Broadway, and garnered the 2003 Theatre World Award for outstanding major Broadway debut.[7]


Selected theatre performances


  1. ^ "Previous winners". Olivier Awards. Archived from the original on 2 May 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  2. ^ "Clare Higgins". IBDB. Archived from the original on 2 July 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "At home and happy at last" Archived 25 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Theatre masterclass: Clare higgins". The Guardian. 30 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  5. ^ "Clare Higgins- one of the busiest stage actors". The British Theatre Guide. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Clare Higgins as MRS Bartlett - Downton Abbey S03E03 - Digital Spy". Digital Spy. Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  7. ^ "Past recipients". Theatre World Awards. Archived from the original on 4 October 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2014.