Ann Emery, the veteran actress who played Ethel Meaker in children’s show Rentaghost, has died at the age of 86.
Emery, half-sister of comedian Dick, also played Grandma in the original cast of the Billy Elliot stage musical.
Its director, Stephen Daldry, paid tribute to her “zest for life”, saying she had been “at the heart of the Billy Elliot family for over a decade”.
Born in London in 1930, her other roles included Mrs Rocket in the BBC’s Julia Jekyll and Harriet Hyde.
Emery appeared with her half-brother in eight episodes of The Dick Emery Show before landing her Rentaghost role in 1976.
Together with her opportunistic husband Harold, her character rented out ghosts to members of the public in need of spectral assistance.
Emery played Billy’s grandmother at London’s Victoria Palace theatre from 2005 to 2010, going on to appear in the Cameron Mackintosh musical Betty Blue Eyes.
When that show closed, she returned to the Palace – a theatre she first performed in as a child – before announcing her retirement in 2015.
In 2010 she received a lifetime achievement award from the British Music Hall Society.
In his tribute, Daldry described her as “a child of the theatre… who never seemed old and never took the profession for granted.”
“What a treat it was to have known her,” he went on, saying the actress would be “remembered fondly” and “deeply missed”.
Reece Shearsmith, with whom Emery appeared in Betty Blue Eyes, also paid tribute on Twitter, remembering her as being “tireless, funny and with boundless energy”.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne, who said she had been “beloved by everyone who knew her and had the joy of working with her”.
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