Yvonne Craig


Date of Birth: 16 May 1937, Tayorville, Illinois, US
Birth Name: Yvonne Joyce Craig
Nicknames: Yvonne Craig

Dancer turned actress who brought a spirited grace to the high-kicking antics of the superheroine Batgirl
Yvonne Craig trained as a dancer and became the youngest-ever member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; but it was on television that her athletic grace won legions of fans, as Batgirl to Adam West’s Batman.


Now fondly remembered as an example of 1960s camp, Batman, made by the ABC television network, was steeped in the Pop Art sensibility of the era. The storylines were comic, the sets garish, and colourful bubble words like KAPOW!, BAM! and ZOK! livened up the fight sequences. When audience figures started to pall towards the end of the decade, the writers decided to freshen up the show by bringing in the character of Barbara Gordon, a good-looking librarian who pursues a second career as the crime-fighting Batgirl.


The producer, Howie Horwitz, was anxious to preserve the character’s femininity, so Batgirl was forbidden to punch her various on-screen nemeses, relying instead on high kicks and handily placed objects. While Adam West had his black Batcycle (with a detachable self-propelled sidecar for Robin), Yvonne Craig drove a purple version with a large yellow bow. She did most of her own stunts, which were made all the more uncomfortable by the bat wings that had replaced the motorcycle’s shock absorbers “like jumping off a table stiff-legged”, as she put it.
Such dedication could not halt the show’s decline, however, and after one more series it was cancelled in 1968. Looking back, Yvonne Craig expressed disappointment in the way the character was handled after her initial test screening. “When we did the pilot, Batgirl was supposed to be not only as good as the guys but better,” she recalled. “She ended up being this cute little bland character, when she could have been more in the style of Katharine Hepburn.”
None the less, her performance was eagerly taken up by feminist critics as a spirited example of the hard-working career girl an ally to the hero, rather than his dependant. In 1972 Yvonne Craig stepped into the role once more, this time on behalf of the US Department of Labor. A 30-second skit had Batgirl swinging to the rescue of a captive Batman and Robin but not before demanding equal pay.


Yvonne Joyce Craig was born on May 16 1937 in Taylorville, Illinois, and aspired to a career in dance from an early age. While attending the Edith James School of Ballet she was spotted by the Russian ballerina Alexandra Danilova, who helped her win a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York. Aged 16 she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but left three years later and eventually fell into acting after a chance meeting with John Ford’s son Patrick. Her first starring role was as the beautiful yet spoiled Elena in The Young Land (1959), which the younger Ford produced.


By the mid-1960s she had moved away from temptress roles to play more traditional leading ladies, appearing alongside Elvis Presley in It Happened At The World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). The two of them hit it off and Yvonne Craig spent time with Presley at his home in Bel Air though, coming from the insulated life of the professional dancer, she had little idea of his rock-and-roll credentials. The reality was finally brought home to her when, trying to find the light-switch in his bedroom late one night, she accidentally hit a panic button and was greeted by several carloads of policemen at the front door.


On television she made a foray into the spy arena with a guest part in the original series of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1965), gave a passionate performance as the creatively named Ecstasy La Joie in The Wild Wild West (1966) and was painted green for a memorable turn as a psychotic alien in Star Trek (1969). In later life she swapped acting for a career in property, but continued to make regular appearances at comic and fantasy conventions in America.

Jonathan Ollivier


Date of Birth: April 26 1977, Northampton, UK
Birth Name: Jonathan Byrne Ollivier
Nicknames: Jonathan Ollivier

Jonathan Ollivier, the dancer, was an internationally acclaimed star in British companies, particularly the choreographer Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and Northern Ballet.
With his vulpine good looks and rangy body, Ollivier could inject an ambiguous mystery into leading roles in contemporary ballet stories, such as Bourne’s male Swan in his celebrated Swan Lake rewrite, in which the Wall Street Journal’s critic considered that he had even more forceful charisma in 2010 than the role’s originator in 1995, Adam Cooper of the Royal Ballet.
Jonathan Ollivier had built up a rack of stage roles such as Stanley Kowalski, Dracula, Heathcliff and Romeo in productions at Northern Ballet, Leeds, where for seven years he was a major attraction as principal dancer, able to cut an appealingly romantic figure in a variety of costume roles.
Even though few of the ballets were highly rated by critics, Ollivier’s distinction as a performer was consistently given critical recognition and was twice nominated in the National Dance Awards as Best Male Dancer in 2003 and 2004.


Despite the success of his youth, it was in his thirties, and after he decided to become freelance, that Ollivier achieved a more complex and interesting artistic profile. This arrived mainly through his performing of three subtle character creations by Matthew Bourne, in which the mature Ollivier found a new dramatic range.
As the mysterious, dangerous male Swan in Bourne’s modern Swan Lake, as the amoral 1960s London “babe-magnet” Speight in Play Without Words, and this summer as the devilish mechanic in The Car Man, Ollivier deployed a memorable unpredictability and virile presence.
It was his ability as a dance-actor to fuse edgy vulnerability with fatal attractiveness that led to his being given the prestige of leading the last performance of The Car Man’s run, tragically prevented on Sunday.
Jonathan Byrne Ollivier was born in Northampton on April 26 1977. His father, a builder, left when Jonathan was two, and his mother brought him up on her own with his three sisters. Having an Irish grandfather, he had taken up Irish dancing young, but after being shouted at by his teacher changed to ballet aged six.
He asked his mother to let him stay to watch two of his sisters as they took ballet and tap classes, rather than go with her to the shops, recalling later: “I made up my mind from a very young age that it was exactly what I wanted to do.” He dealt with bullies at school by taking up karate and progressed to a black belt.
At 16 Ollivier considered himself fortunate to have failed the Royal Ballet School audition, since full-time training at the Rambert Ballet School opened up a range of possibilities in both ballet and contemporary dance that he would exploit later. Aged 19, he got his first job in South Africa with Cape Town City Ballet, where he met his future wife, the South African dancer Desiré Samaai.
Three years later he returned to Britain to join Northern Ballet Theatre, Leeds, where Desiré Samaai, whom he had married, joined him. Ollivier soon originated the role of Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire by the contemporary choreographer Didy Veldman and the main part in Michael Pink’s Dracula. He then attracted fans by dancing the more classical Romeo and Tybalt in Massimo Moricone’s Romeo and Juliet, he said he preferred playing the bad Tybalt to the good Romeo.
While in Leeds, Ollivier was a dancer of notable strength, though not always in works worthy of him. He proved his versatility by the range of the leading roles created for him: in Birgit Scherzer’s Requiem, Moricone’s Jekyll and Hyde, and in many by Northern Ballet Theatre’s choreographer-director David Nixon including Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream .


In 2005 Ollivier and his wife starred together in Veronica Paeper’s dance version of La Traviata.
Ollivier left in 2007 for the more classical atmosphere of Canada’s Alberta Ballet, but returned to Britain as a freelance in his thirties, with signal success. Soon after his first son was born, he caught attention in three highly varied roles, with Michael Clark in his New Work 2012, and in Britain’s first tour of the musical Dirty Dancing, in which he starred.
He was then hired by Bourne for his innovative Play Without Words, a dance production based on Joseph Losey’s film The Servant, in which Ollivier’s Speight was considered by one critic to be “as explosive as Elvis”.
After this, he took over the leading role in Bourne’s Swan Lake, hailed as exceptional in New York on the company’s 2010 tour, and then to The Car Man this summer.
Always an eloquent advocate for ballet for boys, in 2006 Ollivier was presented with an honorary fellowship from the University of Northampton. “I don’t think people understand how athletic dance is,” he said. “It’s actually very close to training for martial arts .”

Sophiya Haque


Date of Birth: 14 June 1971, Portsmouth, England, UK
Birth Name: Sophiya Haque

Sophiya Haque's performance in Peter Nichols's Privates on Parade, which opened last month at the Noël Coward theatre, marked a high point in the beautiful British Asian actor's West End career, launched 10 years ago with Andrew Lloyd Webber's presentation of Bombay Dreams. As the lustrous Welsh Eurasian Sylvia Morgan, Haque held her own among the knobbly kneed privates, led by Simon Russell Beale's outrageous Captain Terri Dennis. However, illness forced her to withdraw from the production before the end of the year and she has died of cancer at the age of 41.
Born in Portsmouth, Haque was the youngest of three daughters. She was raised by her mother, Thelma, a divorced schoolteacher. She attended Priory comprehensive school and took dance lessons from the age of two and a half at Mary Forrester's Rainbow School of Dance before moving at the age of 13 to London (where she lived with her father, Amirul Haque, a restaurateur, and his second wife), training full-time at the Arts Educational Schools. By night, she wrote and recorded songs as the lead vocalist with the band Akasa and this led to a record deal with WEA Records UK in 1988.
Akasa's music video One Night in My Life, directed by the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff, attracted the attention of MTV Asia and Haque was employed as a presenter at Star TV in Hong Kong in 1992, becoming known as the first lady of music television, her daily shows transmitted in 53 countries.


From 1994, she began appearing on TV in India and in 1997 she moved to Mumbai full-time to work on the Channel V India service. Her first Bollywood movie was Khoobsurat (1999), with the Indian star Sanjay Dutt, and she later made several more including The Rising (2005), with Aamir Khan as a hero of the Indian mutiny of 1857.
She was a huge star by the time she returned to the UK in 2002 to appear in Bombay Dreams – at first in a minor part, understudying the lead role, Rani, knowing she would take over six months later. The show used music by AR Rahman, with a libretto by Meera Syal and lyrics by Don Black. Everyone had their favourite scenes: the exciting train-top sequence, the dance around the fountains leading to a crop of wet saris or the irresistible number Shakalaka Baby.
Bombay Dreams suggested a new, vibrant direction for the British Asian musical, but this initiative received a setback in Haque's next starring vehicle. In an adaptation of MM Kaye's British Raj blockbuster novel The Far Pavilions, at the Shaftesbury in 2005, she played a wicked stepmother who seduces a maharajah with her dance routine.


Haque segued into Coronation Street in 2008, appearing for six months as Poppy Morales, a barmaid in the Rovers Return who was responsible for sacking one of the show's most popular characters, the long-serving Betty Williams (Betty Driver). She also took a small supporting role in the movie Wanted (2008), starring Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy.


Her musical theatre career was back on track in Britain's Got Bhanghra (2010) by Pravesh Kumar and Sumeet Chopra at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, which charted the fortunes of an Indian immigrant and the rise of the Punjabi music genre in Britain over the past 30 years. She played a ruthless entrepreneur realising that bhangra means big bucks in what Michael Billington described as a "blood transfusion" for the British musical.
Later that year she popped up in Gandhi and Coconuts by Bettina Gracias, one of the last productions at the old Arcola theatre in Dalston, east London. She played a depressed and lonely housewife, escaping to the India of her imagination when Mahatma Gandhi and the Hindu deities Shiva and Kali turn up unannounced for tea.
In 2012 she returned to the forefront in Wah! Wah! Girls by Tanika Gupta (book and lyrics) and Niraj Chag (music), an exuberant, colourful dance show, produced by the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, with Sadler's Wells, directed by Kneehigh's Emma Rice at the Peacock theatre as part of the World Stages London festival. The musical registered the changing social and feminist dynamic in India as refracted through an East End of London storyline. Haque was nothing short of sensational as Soraya, a dance club owner whose own act is one of intense erotic sensuality and blazingly proud defiance. The choreography took up where Bombay Dreams had left off, developing a new stage language of show routines and kathak disco dance.
Privates on Parade, a great success, was the first offering of the Michael Grandage Company in the West End, a project that is giving a facelift to London theatre with its reasonable ticket pricing, high production values and relentless star casting. The show runs until 2 March and the rest of the performances are dedicated to Haque's memory.