Actor. Co-Writer of ‘TRELAWNY‘. Lyrics and Music by Julian Slade.

aubreywoodsAubrey and his wife Gaynor were close friends of my brother Julian from the early ‘60s, a friendship that led to Julian’s collaboration with Aubrey in the creation of a successful musical adaptation of Arthur Pinero’s ‘Trelawny of the Wells’. Principally Aubrey was that rare thing, an actor who was seldom out of work, first appearing in theatre films and television in the  ‘40s and ‘50s and continuing in a variety of contrasting roles right through to the ‘90s. His acting work has been generously covered in a number of recent obituaries but he is probably best remembered for succeeding Ron Moody as Fagin in the first production of ‘Oliver’ and as the Candy Man in ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’.

My first memory of him was as Jack in the original 1958 production of Sandy Wilson’s ‘Valmouth’, a wonderful performance in a wonderful musical. It was fun to meet him when he first started working with Julian on what became the musical ‘Trelawny’. This was described again recently in Michael Coveney’s obituary in the Times as ‘a charming musical version. Trelawny, with additional material by the theatre scholar George Rowell, opened at Bristol Old Vic in 1972 (starring Timothy West, Ian Richardson and Hayley Mills) and was staged at Sadlers Wells and then the Prince of Wales (starring Max Adrian, Ian Richardson and Gemma Craven), under the auspices of Cameron Mackintosh (with Veronica Flint-Shipman) , Mackintosh’s first West End show. The critic JC Trewin included Woods’ libretto in his annual compendium Plays of the Year.’

‘Trelawny’ was equally well received by critics and audiences at its time of opening and I think Aubrey would have agreed that the songs and music were among the best Julian ever wrote. They both did a beautiful job in the show’s creation and it would be so nice if, as a tribute to them both, the show was now revived somewhere. It is also very sad that they never collaborated on another musical.
I believe Aubrey, is a great loss to musicals, as much as he is to the theatre, films, television and his many friends and admirers.




1954: ELEANOR DREW (Jane) and JOHN WARNER (Tim)

A tribute to the original ‘Jane’ in Salad Days

By now some older fans of Salad Days will have seen the sad news of Eleanor’s death and the tributes to her. She lived to the grand old age of 91 and she has long been remembered by everyone who owns one of the original 1954 records of Salad Days as a leading member of a cast that helped to make theatrical history.

She, along with John Warner who played ‘Tim’, Dorothy Reynolds who wrote the show with my brother Julian, Julian himself and all the other members of the Salad Days cast were all members of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company. None of them expected to become part of a record-breaking West End success but much of that success could be attributed to Eleanor and her stage partner John. Somehow they personified middle-upper class youth of that age, although neither of them came from that sort of background.

Eleanor was an East End girl by upbringing, a true London cockney by all accounts. From early on she had a beautiful singing voice but, above all, she knew how to ‘perform’. She was also academically bright at school, where she discovered for the first time that if you could suppress your cockney accent you could improve your chances of work.

When the war was over (she had worked in a munitions factory and entertained her fellow workers in song) she took elocution lessons and started auditioning for the theatre. Not surprisingly her voice and delightful personality won her parts in musical shows including the original run of Oklahoma.  Entry to the Bristol Old Vic soon followed.

Salad Days may not have been every critic’s favourite when it first opened in London but the talents of Eleanor were always appreciated by critics and audiences, and her rendering of songs from the show like ‘I Sit In The Sun’, ‘The Time Of My Life’ and ‘We Said We Wouldn’t Look Back’ are what people of that 1954 generation still remember best.

She played in one more of Julian’s shows, Hooray For Daisy, shortly before retiring from the theatre in the early ‘60s to do other things. She and Julian always remained very good friends throughout his life.