The director of Billy Elliot The Musical has paid tribute to former star Ann Emery following her death aged 86.
Ann – who also appeared as Ethel Meaker in children’s TV series Rentaghost – played Billy Elliot’s grandmother between 2005 and 2010 at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London.
In Rentaghost, which aired in the 1970s and 1980s and also starred Christopher Biggins, Ann rented out ghosts to members of the public together with on-screen husband Harold.
We’re deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ann Emery, our wonderful original Grandma. She will be incredibly missed. pic.twitter.com/ttJ4QuwPCx— Billy Elliot (@BillyElliotUK) September 30, 2016
Ann – whose brother was comedian Dick Emery – first appeared at the Victoria Palace Theatre in the Crazy Gang in the 1930s, according to Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry.
Christopher tweeted on Thursday that his former co-star had passed away on Wednesday evening.
The wonderfully talented Ann Emory passed away last night. So many happy memories of our time in Rentaghost. She will be sadly missed. Xxxx— Christopher Biggins (@onebiggins) September 29, 2016
Ann also featured in eight episodes of her brother’s programme The Dick Emery Show.
Stephen paid tribute to Ann as a “child of the theatre” and said she will be “deeply missed”.
He said: “Ann Emery has been at the heart of the Billy Elliot family for over a decade. She created the role of Grandma over 11 years ago, and has been central to the lives of hundreds of 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.”
Stephen added: “She was herself a child of the theatre, whose enthusiasm and joy was always apparent.
“What a treat it was to have known her.”