Ruth Sheen

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Ruth Sheen is an English actress. From the late 1980s, she has appeared in many British television shows, films and plays. She is a frequent participant in the films of Mike Leigh, winning the European Film Award for Best Actress for the role of Shirley in High Hopes .


Ruth Sheen
Stepney, London, England
Alma mater East 15 Acting School
Years active1987–present

Early life

Born in Stepney, London, Sheen began her career training at the East 15 Acting School. [1]



Sheen had recurring roles as Nanny Simmons in Berkeley Square (1998) and as Nurse Ethel Carr in the series Bramwell (1995–1998). She also appeared as four different characters in six episodes of The Bill between 1989 and 2004. [2] Also in 2004 she appeared in Agatha Christie’s Marple “The Murder at the Vicarage” as Mrs Tarrant.

She played Maureen Tacy in the series Doc Martin (2002) and appeared in the role of Mrs Jones in the 2007 drama mini-series Fanny Hill , based on the erotic novel by John Cleland. [3] [2]

She appeared in Agatha Christie’s Poirot “Elephants Can Remember” (2013) as Madame Rosentelle and in Misfits (TV Series) as Maggie.

Sheen was the titular Elizabeth in "The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge", a 2015 episode of Inside No. 9 . [4] She has a supporting role as a pub landlord in the comedy series Brassic (2019–). [5] Also in 2015. she appeared in the TV series Unforgotten as Lizzie Wilton and in 2016 in Midsomer Murders “Saints and Sinners” as Valerie Horton. In 2017, she acted in the TV mini-series Prime Suspect 1973 as Renee Bentley.

In 2021, Sheen featured in the last episode of the miniseries It's a Sin . [6]


Sheen frequently appears in the films of Mike Leigh. She has played the female lead role in High Hopes (1988), a laughing woman in Secrets & Lies (1996), Maureen in All or Nothing (2002), Lily in Vera Drake (2004), Gerri in Another Year (2010), and Sarah Danby in Mr. Turner (2014). [7] [8] [9]

High Hopes was her award-winning breakthrough role. [9] After Another Year she commented on Leigh's preference for improvisation: "It's a unique way of working... He's quite a hard taskmaster." [10]

She played the mother of the character Jamie in Philip Ridley's 2009 feature film Heartless and appeared in Welcome to the Punch (2013). [11] [12] She played Elsie in the hit 2016 film adaptation of A Street Cat Named Bob . [2]


Sheen performed in Mike Leigh's play It's a Great Big Shame at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1993. [13] She has appeared in Stoning Mary at the Royal Court Theatre, Market Boy at the Royal National Theatre and An Oak Tree at the Soho Theatre, all in London. [13] In 2007, she played the role of Lyn, opposite Ben Whishaw's Steven, in the world premiere of Philip Ridley's stage play Leaves of Glass at the Soho Theatre. [14]


In 1989, Sheen won the European Film Award for Best Actress for the role of Shirley in High Hopes. [15] She was nominated for British actress of the year by the London Film Critics' Circle for Another Year. [16]

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