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Ann Emery: ‘Bad back forced me to leave Billy Elliot before time’

Ann Emery in Billy Elliot. Photo: Alastair Muir.
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Ann Emery, who last week announced her retirement from the musical Billy Elliot after 10 years, has revealed a bad back forced her to leave the production sooner than she would have liked.

The 85-year-old actor’s retirement from the show was announced last week, but Emery said the decision was taken “sadly” after suffering pain in her back and realising that she could not commit 100% to the role.

“They did not want me to go, but I couldn’t do it anymore, which is rather sad. You can’t battle on, otherwise you might do something serious, which is silly,” she told The Stage. She added: “It was a case of having to say goodbye and not being able to do what I wanted to do. I am an old pro, from a long line of professionals, but you know yourself better than anyone, and I just couldn’t give it the pizzazz that was needed.”

Emery described the cast as a “family” and said she had been given a send-off at the end of last year, where speeches were made and she was presented with framed pictures from her time in the production.

She said she could not highlight one particular moment from her decade in the role – which she originated when the show opened in 2005 – but said she would remember a “melange of everything”.

Emery also said she would return to the stage if she felt the part was right and she could do it, joking: “My agent is a bit upset that I am not working.”

She will be replaced in the production as Grandma by Gillian Elisa, who has previously alternated the role with Emery.

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