Jennifer Piercey obituary

Other lives: Actor who worked with Alan Ayckbourn and appeared on TV in The Two of Us

My wife, Jennifer Piercey, who has died aged 79 from amyloidosis, was an actor who had a crowded career for more than 40 years on stage, television and radio. She worked with Alan Ayckbourn in the West End and Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre, toured the UK in rep and played Nicholas Lyndhurst’s mother in TV’s The Two of Us.

Jennifer was born in Aberdeen, where her father, Leslie Thompson, was a civil engineer. Her mother, Elsie (nee Piercey), was a former fashion model.

After St Margaret’s school, Aberdeen, Jennifer studied at the College of Speech and Drama in Edinburgh, graduating in 1963. She went straight into her first professional job, taking her mother’s maiden name as her stage name, playing a gorgon matron in Semi-Detached, by David Turner, at the tiny Byre theatre, St Andrews, the same year appearing as Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest. Moonlighting from the university as an assistant stage manager at the time, I fell hopelessly in love with her. We kept in touch sporadically then met again in London in 1975 and married in 1977.

In the 1970s and 80s, British theatre still had a flourishing repertory network and Jennifer travelled and worked all over the UK. In 1972 Ayckbourn cast her as Eva, the foiled would-be suicide, in the original production of his Absurd Person Singular at the Library theatre, Scarborough. Subsequently in the West End she appeared in his Joking Apart and as the lovelorn secretary, Veronica, in The Revengers’ Comedies.

Jennifer Piercey with Paul McDowell, left, and Nicholas Lyndhurst in the TV series The Two of Us, 1986.
Jennifer Piercey with Paul McDowell, left, and Nicholas Lyndhurst in the TV series The Two of Us, 1986. Photograph: ITV/Shutterstock

Laurence Olivier invited her to join the National Theatre at the Old Vic in 1972, to appear in Macbeth, The Cherry Orchard and The Bacchae. She toured Australia in 1974 with the National Theatre company in The Front Page, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and in 1975 appeared as Denis Quilley’s wife in Zeffirelli’s West End production of Saturday, Sunday, Monday, by Eduardo De Filippo, adapted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall.

Other London work included a lovely study of the put-upon spinster Miss Walkinshaw in John Byrne’s The Slab Boys at the Royal Court and as a caustic secretary to Peter Bowles’s preening star in Noël Coward’s Present Laughter. Later appearances saw her as the redoubtable Lady Brocklehurst, forever pursuing her errant, randy husband (Ian Talbot), at the Open Air theatre in Regent’s Park in Talbot’s fizzing production of The Boy Friend. She also spent a key period in children’s theatre, which she loved, working for two seasons for the Unicorn Theatre Company in London.

On television she appeared in Jonathan Creek (1998) and Grange Hill, and in several series of The Two of Us (1986-90). Among film work, a favourite was in Another Time, Another Place (1983), Michael Radford’s wartime Black Isle drama. Her last stage role came in 2005, in Men Should Weep, on tour for the Oxford Stage Company.

Jennifer’s last few years were plagued by ill health but she enjoyed gardening, reading and cookery.

She is survived by her sister, Patricia, three nephews and three nieces, and by me.


Alan Strachan

The GuardianTramp

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