Claire Chitham, who was born and raised in Auckland, began getting serious about acting as a child. On top of eight years training and acting at Onehunga’s Dolphin Theatre — where she starred as Pinocchio aged only nine — Chitham studied song and dance at the Performing Arts School of NZ.
At 12 she made her screen debut in an episode of locally-shot show The New Adventures of Black Beauty (1990). Over the next few years she joined the ensemble of another girl and horse drama, Riding High and got to play daughter to Elliott Gould (M*A*S*H) in an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theatre (‘The Happiness Machine’).
1994 was the year Chitham got a guest role on Shortland Street as the well-meaning Waverley Wilson. Though she was introduced as a love interest for Nick Harrison (Karl Burnett), the couple's long-awaited marriage took eight years to eventuate, thanks to varied complications including other partners, Waverley fleeing town, and Nick's shock at waking to discover that Waverley had cut off much of his hair. Post-marriage things did not noticeably improve: Chitham's character endured breast cancer and a miscarriage, before the couple left the show in 2005 for Taranaki.
In 1995 Claire took an extended break from Shortland Street, during which she acted on stage, and in Riding High. She took another break in 2003, to join the “exemplary” ensemble cast (NZ Herald) of Auckland Theatre Company's Play 2.03. Time off Shortland looks to have reawakened Chitham’s interest in theatre. Since leaving the show in 2004 she has appeared on stage in a number of plays, mainly for Silo Theatre; she won raves for her part in three-hander Tape, and sang in musical review Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris. Chitham also learnt much from The Acting Centre, during one of her stays in Los Angeles.
On screen, she won a 2006 NZ Screen Award for a guest role in police drama Interrogation. The same year saw another memorable role: Aurora Bay on Outrageous Fortune. Aurora’s relationship with the leader of a motorcycle gang fails to stop the lovestruck Van West (Antony Starr) from trying to win her over, even if it means rescuing her from gang headquarters.
Chitham went on to short stints on Australia's Neighbours and Canal Road (as screen wife to Outrageous Fortune actor Grant Bowler). She also joined Shortland Street colleague Karl Burnett in his self-funded comedy romp Captain Amazingly Incredible and the Space Vampires from the Evil Planet.
Shannon Huse, 'Tape at SiLo Theatre' (Review) - NZ Herald, 9 August 2004
Francis Till, 'Play 2.03 (ATC Second Unit) at Maidment Studio (Review) - NZ Herald, 13 July 2003
'Claire Chitham' Outrageous Fortune website (Broken link). Accessed 8 July 2015
'Claire Chitham' TVNZ website. Accessed 15 May 2012