Billy Elliot and Rentaghost star Ann Emery dies aged 86

Ann Emery in Billy Elliot. Photo: Alastair Muir
by -

Ann Emery, who originated the role of Grandma in Billy Elliot the Musical, has died at the age of 86.

Emery is best known for her 10-year stint in the West End show, from which she retired in January 2015.

Confirming her death, Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry said Emery, who first appeared in the show in 2005, had been “at the heart of the musical” and at the centre of the lives of the children who performed with her.

“Her zest for life, professional experience and care for the often very young performers who she worked with was truly exceptional. She will have a special place in all our hearts as an old pro, who never seemed old and never took the profession for granted,” he said.

Daldry went on to describe her as “a child of the theatre” whose first appearance at the Victoria Palace Theatre was in the 1930s.

“She will be remembered fondly, and today deeply missed. What a treat to have known her,” he added.

Emery retired from Billy Elliot in 2015, and in an interview with The Stage said a bad back had forced her to leave the show sooner than she would have liked.

Her other West End credits include Betty Blue Eyes, My Fair Lady and Martin Guerre, while she also appeared in children’s television series Rentaghost in the 1970s and 1980s.

Other theatre figures who have paid tribute to Emery include Elaine Paige, Matthew Bourne and Christopher Biggins.