Entertainment & Arts

West End actress Sophiya Haque dies at 41

Sophiya Haque
Image caption Haque played barmaid Poppy Morales in Coronation Street

Tributes have been paid to the actress Sophiya Haque, who has died in London at the age of 41.

Haque, who had been performing in the West End production of Privates on Parade, was diagnosed with cancer before Christmas.

She was suffering from pneumonia and is understood to have developed a clot on her lungs.

Her uncle, Syed Haque called her "a loveable person and very beautiful," the Evening Standard reported.

"She has always been in the musical business and used to do ballet in her younger days," he said.

"A few years ago she was involved in Bollywood dramas in the West End. She invited me a few times to go to see her but unfortunately I didn't have time.

"I actually didn't know anything about her illness until her death yesterday," he added.

Michael Grandage, who directed Privates on Parade, said he and her fellow cast members were "devastated".

'Glorious' performer

"She was a true force of nature and her glorious performance as Sylvia in Privates on Parade is one that will be remembered with great joy," said a statement issued by the Michael Grandage Company on Twitter.

"A spirited lady, she lived life to the full, and her presence in the theatre will be sorely missed. The company would like to dedicate the remaining performances to her memory."

BBC arts and entertainment correspondent Tim Masters was at the show's opening night in December and said: "The only woman in the cross-dressing cast of Privates on Parade, Sophiya Haque provided the genuine glamour at the heart of Peter Nichols' camp musical play.

"She played Sylvia Morgan, a Welsh-Indian singer and dancer performing for the British troops in Malaya in 1948.

"Sylvia suffers both physical and mental abuse, and Haque rose admirably to the challenge of portraying the character's complexities."

Image caption Haque played love interest Sylvia Morgan in Privates on Parade

Soap star

A popular stage actress, Haque also played barmaid Poppy Morales in Coronation Street in 2008-09.

"We are saddened to hear the terrible news of Sophiya's death," said a statement from ITV.

"She was a vibrant and beautiful actress who was a pleasure to have around during her time on Coronation Street. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very sad time."

Born in Portsmouth, she became a familiar face on television during a seven-year stint as a presenter of MTV Asia.

A talented singer and dancer, she moved to Mumbai in 1997 and starred in a number of films. On her return in 2002, she starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bollywood-inspired musical Bombay Dreams and took a leading role in the musical adaptation of The Far Pavilions. More recently, she starred in Wah! Wah! Girls at London's Theatre Royal Stratford East and Peacock theatre.

The BBC Asian Network radio host and comedian Adil Ray described the actress on Twitter as "our dear friend".

He recalled her contribution to one of his radio shows as "[very] funny", adding: "Love her to bits."

The DJ Nihal, who presents a show on Radio 1Xtra, also paid tribute to the actress. "Rest In Peace Sophiya Haque. She was a really cool person with an amazing energy," he wrote on Twitter.

Haque called her role as entertainer Sylvia Morgan - the only woman in the cast of musical play Privates on Parade - "absolutely delightful".

"The Ginger Rogers- Fred Astaire number is my favourite. I think most of my influences are from that era, but I never ever thought in a million years I'd get to do it on stage," she told website spoonfed. "I am one happy customer."

She lived in London with her partner, musical director David White, and the couple were in the process of building a houseboat when she fell ill.

"Sophiya was a wonderful actress, a wonderful client, but so much more than that, a wonderful friend. She was adored by everyone she worked with and will be deeply missed," said her agent, Oliver Thomson, who confirmed her death to the Evening Standard.

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