Annie Wigzell obituary

My mother, Annie Wigzell, who has died aged 94, was a casting director at the National Theatre from its early days at the Old Vic with its first director, Laurence Olivier, and then with Peter Hall at its new home on the South Bank.

She worked on many significant productions, including the National’s first world premiere, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Miss Julie with Albert Finney and Maggie Smith, and Jumpers with Michael Hordern and Diana Rigg.

Born in London, Annie was the only daughter of Arthur Robinson, a captain in the Royal Army Service Corps, who served for many years in India, and his wife, Grace (nee Hignett). Grace returned to Britain from India for the birth of her daughter and then went back soon afterwards, meaning that until the age of four Annie was brought up by her grandmother.

Her parents separated soon after they returned from India and Annie was sent first to a boarding school in Broadstairs, Kent, then to a convent school near Wantage, Oxfordshire. At 17 she went to London to study acting at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. During the second world war she joined Ensa, the Entertainments National Service Association, and was sent to Egypt to entertain the troops. She returned to Britain in 1947 and worked for the HM Tennent theatrical production company.

It was while she was assistant stage manager on the White Carnation at the Globe theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue that she met my father, the actor Peter Wigzell. They married in 1953 (although she continued to use her maiden name, Annie Robinson, for work) and I was born the following year.

A couple of years later a chance meeting with Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowdon), who had come to photograph the play she was working on, led to a brief break from the theatre world. He was looking for a part-time secretary and offered her the job. She worked at his studio for almost three years until he married Princess Margaret.

Annie returned to the theatre when the National was founded in 1963, initially joining the small team at the Old Vic to deal with the mail from aspiring actors and to arrange auditions. She ended up becoming a casting director, with much of her time spent talent spotting in repertory theatre productions across the country. Actors she brought to the National included Michael Kitchen, Brenda Blethyn, Tim Pigott-Smith and Colin Firth.

When Hall was appointed director of the National in succession to Olivier in 1974, Annie formed a close working relationship with the new casting director, Gillian Diamond. They became a well-known double act at the centre of British theatre for 10 years, their office overlooking the Thames a haven for stressed actors seeking tea and sympathy. They remained close friends long after Annie retired in 1985 and until Gillian’s death in 2015.

After Annie’s retirement, she and my father left London and moved into an old farmhouse near Frome, in Somerset, where they lived for more than 30 years.

Peter died in 2001. Annie is survived by me and her grandsons, Tom and Jack.