I sat in the front row of the New London Theatre aged 9, having learnt every word of Gumbie Cat at home on cassette, and sat enthralled watching my first ever musical - she (as Gumbie) spotted me singing along and during her number nudged one of the dancers and pointed this little 9 year old, singing her heart out, to her fellow performer as they tapped and sang.
At the end of the show I sat and sobbed, wishing I could find the words to express to my Mum that I wasn't upset that Griz had died but it was because I had realised in those two hours that I deeply wanted to do what I'd seen her and the rest of the amazing cast do but couldn't imagine that I would ever get to do that and be in a musical and inside I was almost inconsolable.
I never forgot her face, and 12 years later I was able to tell her this story as we sat together in the rehearsal room of Martin Guerre and I got to thank her for being part of what inspired me to fulfill my dream. I then had the pleasure (and frequent herniated hysterics) of working with her for a year and enjoying her 'Hortense'. What a joy she was.
Later, when I co-directed and choreographed a BYT production of Billy Elliot, her essence, her delightful comedy was again inspiring me and it was one of the Grandma scenes that was seen by the West End creative team that lead to our cast being chosen to perform in the West End Gala performance of Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace in 2011.
|Photo credit - Alistair Muir|
She was a one off. She was marmalade. She was velvet. She was nuts. And in my eyes could have been Dame Ann Emery.
Thank you Ann. It's definitely pasties for tea tonight. xxx