THE ASTONISHING APPEAL OF A RECORD BREAKER
Julian’s brother ADRIAN SLADE reflects on the three recent productions at London’s Riverside Studios.
In November 2009, fifty-five years after it first opened in London’s West End, a simple and inexpensive production of Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds’s ‘Salad Days’ – the show which had broken all previous box office records when it ran in the West end from 1954 to 1960 – opened for a modest ten day run at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. It was not the first revival of the show – there had been two previously in the West End (1976 and 1996) – but this production, by opera company Tete a Tete, struck an immediate chord with audiences and critics in a way earlier revivals had never quite done. It could well have filled the studio theatre for many weeks more. The direction by Bill Bankes-Jones and the cast he had so carefully chosen, backed by the perfectly matched musical direction of Anthony Ingle and the choreography of Quinny Sacks, captured the simplicity and magic of the original production as never before.
It also soon became obvious that, after fifty-five years, ‘Salad Days’’ time was coming again. The critics loved the show as much as the audiences. It just had to come back for another run. And it did in 2010 – again at the Riverside but this time for six weeks. One or two of the 2009 cast were no longer available but the Bankes-Jones eye spotted perfect replacements. The excellent Michelle Francis was no longer available to play the central part of Jane but I was particularly pleased that Bill alighted on Katie Moore to replace her. Katie had previously won our Julian Slade Award at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Other superb new additions to the cast were Tony Timberlake, Mark Inscoe and Kathryn Martin.
The 2010 version of the production was even tighter, funnier and more musical than the first and, once the national press critics had been again or for the first time, it played to packed houses. When its six week run had to end everyone hoped that was not the end forever. Luckily we only had to wait until December 20 2012 to see it back for a third time on the green sward of the Riverside Studio Theatre.
Once more there were a few cast changes but, as critics and audiences agreed, each time the production seemed to get better and better. ‘Salad Days’ has never been a ’star’ show. All the actors were great but, of the principals, there may never again be a better Tim (Leo Miles) or Jane (Katie Moore). Lee Boggess (Troppo), Ellie Robertson (Fiona) and Matthew Hawksworth (the Tramp and the Bishop) were always loved for their performances in all three versions. Mark Inscoe (Uncles Clam and Zed, and the Night Club Manager) and Tony Timberlake (Tim’s Father, Ambrose and the Police Inspector) will be long remembered for their unique characterisations, as will Kathryn Martin (Tim’s Mother and Asphynxia) and Gemma Page (Lady Raeburn/Jane’s Mother). Charlie Cameron (Rowena) and Tom Millen (PC Boot) raised many a laugh and Luke Alexander (Nigel) made a resounding success of his professional debut.
This revival captured the magic of the original show more accurately and with greater musicality than any of its predecessors that I can remember. The dancing was certainly the best ever. But the biggest plus of all was that, unlike some previous attempts at staging the show, the director and actors respected the language and manners of the period, recognising the self-mockery, innocence and quirky absurdity of the ‘Salad Days’ characters, in what in the sub text to its magic piano story is actually a parody of upper middle class life and concerns in the Fifties. They gave their performances both comic skill and lightness of touch in equal measure.
This production will long be remembered.
2012/13 WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT ‘SALAD DAYS’
The Tête à Tête Company production at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. December 20 2012 to March 2 2013.
“It hails from the time when piano was pronounced ‘piarno’ and ‘gay’ still meant jolly and by this definition opera company Tete a Tete’s production couldn’t be gayer. This show is an extraordinary combination of the hoary old rep comedy Charley’s Aunt, Beyond-the-Fringe style Fifties student review and Gilbert and Sullivan light opera. Bill Bankes-Jones’ production buttonholes you from the moment you walk in…….. My favourite bit was the completely gratuitous Egyptian restaurant spoof where egg and chips are served while Kathryn Martin’ Cleopatra-like Asphynxia croons a nonsense night club jazz song. Leo Miles and Katie Moore are delightful as the leading duo Tim and Jane.”
DAILY MAIL (Patrick Marmion) January 4 2013
“This thoroughly likeable revival got such a glowing response on its previous seasons at the Riverside that it has been brought back for an ambitious 10 week run……Katie Moore’s charming Jane swirls around in her lovely dress……a uniformly excellent cast of 16 give light but accurate performances…….
the choreography by Quinny Sacks is a joy throughout. You may even find yourself on stage during one number. I saw 7-year -olds and 70-year-olds alike having a good time doing so.”
TIMES (Dominic Maxwell) January 5 2013
“Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade’s musical sparked the impresarial imagination of the eight-year-old Cameron Mackintosh, and Bill Bankes-Jones giddy and pitch perfect production proves that, even at the ripe old age of 58, the show has lost none of its infectious jeu d’esprit. If you have never heard “It’s Easy To Sing’ or “We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back’ I promise you will be word perfect by the end. It’s all sensationally well sung without amplification, which makes it even sharper, and dazzlingly danced in gorgeous vintage Horrocks frocks and Fair Isle pullovers. But this Salad’s dressing is a bluesy nightclub number, ‘Sand In My Eyes’ in which Kathryn Martin’s Asphynxia, dressed as Cleopatra, seduces the entire audience.”
MAIL ON SUNDAY (Georgina Brown) January 6 2013
“The decorations are down and the gloom is up in these dreary early January days, which might make a trip to this perky musical comedy just the tonic. ……Jane (Katie Moore) and Timothy (Leo Miles) have graduated from Oxford and are expected, like all Fifties graduates, to have emerged as fully formed adults. Her family has a list of suitors and his one of high-achieving uncles who might offer him a career…..It’s hard not to smile at the affectionate depiction of this long-gone (never-existed?) world, despite all the daftness that writers Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds have concocted……a spritely cast give Bill Bankes-Jones’s production for opera company Tête à Tête bundles of energy and it’s intriguing to hear the actors sing without amplification. This practice, which encourages intelligent listening from the audience, is becoming a rarity in musicals. ……. (Katie ) Moore is especially sweet-voiced and makes lovely work of I Sit in the Sun and The Time of My Life. If I were one of the uncles, I’d look at employing her instead of the slightly drippy Tim.”
LONDON EVENING STANDARD (Fiona Mountford) January 7 2013
HER ANTIDOTE TO CAMERON?
In a Daily Telegraph article otherwise devoted to comparing David Cameron’s attitude to marriage to that of Henry VIII and to criticising the portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge, journalist and commentator Cristina Odone wrote:
“I’ve been suffering the January blues. I blame the cold, the shocking bill at the end of each grocery shop and the prospect of paying the taxman at the end of the month. An urgent remedy was called for: ‘Salad Days’! For an injection of lyrical nostalgia and sweet innocence, nothing compares to this Fifties musical, currently revived at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. The gloriously inane plot glides upon serious subjects (inter-generational conflicts, snobbery, ambition) like a tea dance upon a well-polished floor. As for the music, Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds concocted a medley of songs calculated to banish all woes. When the brilliant cast invited us to join in the rousing finale, not even my family’s pained expressions could stop me. Pure joy.”
Daily Telegraph (2012)
”Salad Days is musical theatre at its very best. The production is airtight with foolproof timing: every note is hit, every joke landed and every step perfectly executed. Rip roaringly funny, with simple catchy melodies, exceptional voices and musical accompaniment, even virgin music hallers will be tapping along, long after the close” Happy New Year to all!
THERE OUGHT TO BE CLOWNS
“What makes it soar into the musical heaven is the entirely straight bat with which Bill Bankes-Jones directs the whole affair…. Salad Days remains a joy to watch, a refreshing breath of uncynical fresh air.”
WHAT’S ON STAGE
“You soon learn to just surrender yourself to every (increasingly ridiculous) twist and turn in this show, no matter how bizarre things get. You might not put up with it for any other show but Salad Days is definitely worth the effort.”
“Leo Miles and Katie Moore are perfectly cast as Timothy and Jane but the joy of this ensemble are the scene-stealing cameo performances from Ellie Robertson, Mark Inscoe and Tony Timberlake.”
“This year give the Panto a miss…..go and see this instead.” (Click and then click on Reviews)
THEATRE GUIDE LONDON
“This holiday bonbon is charming, delightful, entertaining……you might as well give in and just let it wash over you.”
“Even those allergic to musicals would, I’m sure, ,find plenty to enjoy in the wonderfully well written, and acted, sketches. It certainly took me on a trip down memory lane and I found it an absolute delight.”
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
“(Salad Days) charms with tireless good nature and some unforgettable songs. As such, it should be a Yuletide success, which will also have the ability to lift the depression during the long cold days of January and February.”
ONE STOP ARTS
‘”Salad Days embodies the new post-war optimism which followed the coronation. It also takes a very sly subversive look at the watershed era marriage, the family, social rules, upper class snobbery, higher education, fashion, the government and the police are gently critiqued… The effervescent nature of this delightful production will almost certainly put a smile on your face”
‘THE QUEEN’S FAVOURITE SONG’?
On June 1 2012 ITV ran a Jubilee programme called ‘All The Queen’s Horses’, featuring a pageant of many of the royal horses that had been part of the Queen’s life. At the close of the programme the commentator Alan Titchmarsh said ‘And now, as Her Majesty leaves the arena, the band will play one of her favourite songs , ‘We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back’ from ‘Salad Days’ . On this one night perhaps for a moment she did?’
Is the song really ‘one of Her Majesty’s favourites’, or even her favourite?
We don’t truly know but we think it is very possible. In the 1950s the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret all went to see ‘Salad Days’ at the Vaudeville Theatre in London and all told Julian, on more than one occasion, that they had greatly enjoyed the show. Princess Margaret even saw it at least twice. She also owned copies of the sheet music from the show which she played at home on her piano – perhaps to other members of the family?
So Alan Titchmarsh may have been right.
1954. THAT MAGICAL YEAR
2014 was an important anniversary year in the Julian Slade calendar. Sixty years ago not just one but three of Julian’s musical enterprises hit the mass audience for the first time – two on the London stage, and one on BBC Television. And they all received considerable acclaim from critics and audiences.The late TV broadcaster Robert Robinson, at that time a newspaper television critic, was just one of many to be effusive about it.
In 1953 a production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, with a brand new musical score by 23-year-old Julian Slade, had been very enthusiastically received at the Bristol Old Vic’s Theatre Royal. So much so that the BBC asked its director Lionel Harris to adapt the play for television. It was shown on BBC TV on May 23 1954.
‘This production, with Julian Slade’s music was the finest, most elegant, most uncommon piece of light entertainment I have ever seen – or ever expect to see – on television.’
Its success led to Sheridan’s farce The Duenna, another Lionel Harris production from Bristol with another brand new score by Julian Slade, being brought to the old Westminster Theatre in London’s Victoria for a limited run in July 1954. Again universally favourably comments from critics included:
‘A jolly and jaunty new score’
‘Tuneful in the modern way ….the whole thing goes with a swing, much helped by Sheridan’s wit and the charm of its songs ‘
‘Sheridan’s wit has lost none of its sparkle but what distinguishes it considerably is the new music specially written by Julian Slade’-
‘A most tasty confection’-
London Evening Standard.
This witty play and its tuneful score packed the theatre on most nights during its four-month run. Then came what was to prove to be, to the total surprise of its cast, the smash hit London show Salad Days.
Written in just three weeks by Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade with music by Julian, as a summer show for the Bristol Old Vic, there had been no thoughts of a West End success, even though Bristol audiences were loving it.
The producers who saw it agreed with the audiences and on August 8 1954 Salad Days opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in the Strand to a rapturous reception from the first night audience. They gave the show 21 curtain calls.
Not all the critics were so kind – most loved it but some, particularly Ken Tynan and Milton Shulman hated it, but that never deterred the audiences and within a short time every house was sold out.
Salad Days 1954. The Tramp (Newton Blick), Minnie, Jane (Eleanor Drew), Tim (John Warner)
The simple story, the wit, the excellent lyrics and very memorable tunes ensured that the show went on to bring in audiences until August 1960, making Salad Days at that time the longest running London musical ever.
For the first seventeen months, until the end of 1955 Julian had played first piano in the orchestra, so he had soon become one of the best known theatre faces and names of his day.
There have been three London revivals of Salad Days since then, the most recent, and in my view the most successful, being the recent Tete a Tete productions at the London Riverside Studios. It is appropriate that, in time for the show’s sixtieth anniversary Tete a Tete have been responsible for producing the first professional recording of Salad Days since the original in 1954*.
Yes, 1954 was quite a year for Julian’s music in all its different forms. Let us hope more of his shows and his music get more revivals in the decades to come.
* The new Tete a Tete Salad Days CD is available for just £10+p&p exclusively from Tete a Tete. For full details just click on the Tete a Tete website at: www.tete-a-tete.org.uk.
A SPECIAL ONE NIGHT THEATRE SCHOOL TRIBUTE
One of the principal beneficiaries of the astonishing success of ‘Salad Days‘ was the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, where Julian Slade began his professional theatrical career. In those days the school was run by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Trust, which also ran the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company. By 1956 the profits earned by ‘Salad Days’ were such that the Trust, with assistance from the Dulverton Trust, was able to buy and completely refurbish the two buildings that house the present theatre School. Nos 1-2 Downside Road.
On Sunday June 29 2014, as a mark of appreciation of Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds for creating the show that helped to develop the strength of the school as it is today, Paul Rummer (Principal), Jenny Stephens (Artistic Director) and Pam Rudge (Head of Music and Singing) staged a 60th anniversary tribute concert performance of ‘Salad Days’ at Bristol’s Redgrave Theatre. The concert performance was preceded by a selection of songs from other musicals, including some from Julian’s other shows, and a personal recollection of Julian by his brother Adrian Slade.
The theatre was packed and the whole evening was very enthusiastically received by an audience of all ages. Among them were Patricia Routledge, who, with the one exception of ‘Salad Days‘ , had played key roles in four of Julian Slade’s other musicals in the ’50s (‘Christmas in King St‘, ‘The Duenna‘, ‘The Comedy of Errors‘ and ‘Follow That Girl‘ ), and the family of Eleanor Drew, the original Jane in ‘Salad Days‘ , who died in March 2014 aged 91. Samantha Bond acted as narrator of the concert version of ‘Salad Days‘ in which her student daughter Molly Hanson featured as Tim’s Mother, singing ‘We Don’t Understand Our Children’ with Monica Nash in the part of Jane’s Mother.
In 2012 the School’s 2008 Julian Slade Award winner Katie Moore was chosen to play Jane in Tete a Tete Productions’ very successful revival of ‘Salad Days’ at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. On June 29, 2014 once again it fell to a Julian Slade Award winner, Bethan Nash, (2012), to play the part of Jane, this time alongside a Tim played by a another Award winner, Ed Macarthur (2013). As it was anticipated they would be, Bethan and Ed Macarthur were really loved by the audience and Jonathan Charles’ rendering of ‘Cleopatra‘ was thought to be one the best of the last 60 years.
Bethan and Ed ended their time with the school in July, both having won further Theatre School awards for ‘showing exceptional flair’ (Bethan) and ‘significant achievement’ (Ed) during their training.
The evening brought back many memories for the older members of the Bristol audience.
1954/55. THE FIRST TRIUMPHANT YEAR OF ‘SALAD DAYS’
Sixty years ago on August 8 2015, Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds’ hit show ‘Salad Days’ celebrated its first full year in the West End. The show had transferred to London from the Bristol Old Vic and opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in the Strand on August 8th 1954. It had had brought in packed houses and wildly enthusiastic audiences from the beginning. Even if a few critics were initially doubtful about the show’s appeal the majority were not and the audiences took immediately to its originality and tuneful songs. On the first night it had received 24 curtain calls and that sort of reception became a familiar feature at many other performances.
Compared to the big American musicals that had previously been dominating the London scene ‘Salad Days’ was not an expensive show to stage. The sets were simple, the ‘orchestra was just two pianos and drums and the actors, almost all of whom had been in the Bristol Old Vic production that had now transferred to London, came with their provincial theatre salaries only marginally increased. . They hadn’t expected such a success any more than had the management, Linnit & Dunfee and Jack Hylton, or the owner of the Vaudeville, Jack Gatti. Well within the year the show had recovered its set up costs, pleasing and surprising Jack Gatti, Julian and Dorothy and the management by starting to make real money. The cast were also rewarded accordingly. Bill Linnit had already made money in theatre. Jack Dunfee had made money as a successful racing driver and businessman. Jack Gatti, a man of deliciously dry humour, came from a family of successful restaurateurs. He owned Rules restaurant behind the Vaudeville, in Maiden Lane, where it still flourishes today and where he often used to take Dorothy and Julian for dinner after the show.
With only one short break Julian had played first piano in the orchestra pit at every performance throughout that year and would continue to do so for another six months. As a result, unlike most new playwrights and writers of musicals, he had become almost immediately recognisable and personally well known to an ever-growing audience of fans. His presence at the piano was also part of the attraction of seeing ‘Salad Days’. The story of how 8 year old Cameron Mackintosh came to see the show with his mother and met Julian is told later on this website.
No list was kept of all the well known people who came to see ‘Salad Days’ in that first year but they certainly included Princess Margaret and her smartly named coterie of society acolytes, Noel Coward, John Gielgud and even the pre- ‘West Side Story ‘ Leonard Bernstein. A year later he invited Julian to write some lyrics for a new musical he was working on (ultimately ‘Candide’ ) but by that time Julian was busy writing ‘Free As Air’ with Dorothy Reynolds so could not accept his offer.
In that remarkable year, while ‘Salad Days’ was pulling in the public in the Strand, Sandy Wilson’s ‘The Boy Friend’ was doing the same at Wyndhams Theatre in St Martin’s Lane. It was a great year for the British musical.
Did Julian and Sandy get on with each other? Not initially. Their rivalry was probably too great in those days but they became good friends later in life.
|AMATEUR PRODUCTIONS OF THE LAST THREE YEARS|
|March 2014: RUISLIP Musical Society
March 2014 BLACKHEATH Trinity Laban Conservatoire
April 2014 CHINGFORD Amateur Dramatic and Opera Society
May 2014 TAUNTON Amateur Operatic Society
May 2014 YORK Earswick Musical Society
April 2015 WOOTTON BASSETT Wootton Bassett LOS
May 2015: SUNBURY UPON THAMES Riverside Youth
May 2015 BIRMINGHAM Crescent Theatre
June 2016 ICKENHAM Spotlight Musical Theatre
Mar 2016 RADSTOCK Downside School
May 2016 STEVENAGE Stevenage Lytton Players
May 2016 SALISBURY Studio Theatre
July 2016 LONDON LAMDA
July 2016 ROMSEY Footlights Youth Theatre
|For forthcoming amateur productions see What’s On?|