Frances Cuka

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Frances Cuka
Born (1936-08-21) 21 August 1936 (age 83)
Years active1961–present

Frances Cuka (born 21 August 1936) is an English actress, principally on television, whose career has spanned over fifty years.

Early life and career[edit]

Cuka (pronounced Chewka) was born in London, England, the daughter of Letitia Alice Annie (née Francis), a tailor, and Joseph Cuka, a process engraver.[1] The family subsequently moved to Hove. As a child, she appeared in BBC radio broadcasts as part of Children's Hour. She trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.[2]

Theatre roles[edit]

After the Guildhall, she joined Theatre Workshop; there she performed in Macbeth and then in 1958 created the role of Jo in Shelagh Delaney's play A Taste of Honey, continuing in the role when the play moved to the West End and Broadway. Between runs of A Taste of Honey she appeared in several plays at the Royal Court Theatre, including Endgame and Live Like Pigs.[3] In 1963 she played Becky Sharp in the musical Vanity Fair, alongside George Baker and Sybil Thorndike.


Cuka then moved into television. Her subsequent television roles included Adam Adamant Lives, Hammer House of Horror (the episode "Charlie Boy"), The Champions and Minder. She also appeared as Doll Tearsheet in a BBC TV version of Henry IV, Part II. She had recurring roles in the soap operas Crossroads and Coronation Street. Her film roles have included Scrooge (1970) as Bob Cratchit's wife, and Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1972) as Catherine of Aragon.

From 2006 to 2009, she played the recurring role of a troublesome tramp called Mrs Bassey in the popular medical drama Casualty. Her final appearance was in September 2009, when her character died from severe burns after being involved in an explosion at a shopping centre.

In 2010, she played Lady Bracknell for Logos Theatre Company at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, in the unusual four-act version of The Importance of Being Earnest.

From March 2011, she appeared in the Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner, as Grandma Nelly Buller.

Cuka was the second actress to play Peggy Mitchell in the BBC1 soap opera EastEnders when the character was first introduced in 1991. She had filmed several scenes of the character when she was axed from the show and all her scenes were scrapped; Jo Warne was then cast in the role.


Year Title Role Notes
1961 Over the Odds Hilda Summers
1970 Scrooge Ethel Cratchit
1972 Henry VIII and his Six Wives Katherine of Aragon
1972 Hide and Seek Mrs. Dickie
1980 The Watcher in the Woods Mary Fleming
1988 The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank Mrs. Van Daan
1988 CivvyStreet Lil Sewell
1990 Mountains of the Moon Lady Houghton
1991 Afraid of the Dark Mrs. Dalton
1997 Snow White: A Tale of Terror Nannau
2003 Swimming Pool Lady on the Underground
2005 Oliver Twist Mrs. Bedwin
2011-2018 Friday Night Dinner Grandma 12 episodes
2014 Closer to the Moon Sarah


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Interview with Frances Cuka". The Theatre Archive. British Library. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Interview with Frances Cuka". The Theatre Archive. British Library. Retrieved 14 October 2012.

External links[edit]