Henry Woolf, occasional contributor to The Frogmore Papers and generous benefactor to the Frogmore Press over many years, died in November in Saskatoon, Canada, at the age of 91.
Henry was best known as an actor and as the lifelong friend of Harold Pinter, but he was also a poet, a teacher and a playwright in his own right. He was an extraordinarily modest man despite his many claims to fame: he commissioned, directed and performed in Pinter’s first play, The Room, in a converted squash court at the University of Bristol in 1957; appeared in Peter Brook’s historic staging of Marat/Sade in 1964; played alongside Laurence Olivier in Ionesco’s Rhinoceros at the Royal Court in 1960; and starred as Toulouse-Lautrec in the musical Bordello at the Queen’s Theatre in London in 1974, and as Tony Hancock in Heathcote Williams’ Hancock’s Last Half Hour.
He also made significant TV appearances, notably in Doctor Who, Steptoe & Son and Rutland Weekend Television, and appeared in films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Gorky Park. His publications include Poems (np, 1966), In The Mousetrap (Greville Press, 2003) and the autobiographical Barcelona is in Trouble (Greville Press, 2017). He lived in Canada from 1983, retiring as Head of Drama at the University of Saskatchewan in 1997.
I first met Henry in the mid-70s when we were both living in Folkestone. He ran memorable weekend theatre workshops at the New Metropole Arts Centre, in which I was an enthusiastic participant. Our paths crossed again when he came to the University of Warwick, where I was a student, to perform Hancock’s Last Half Hour. And after that we stayed in touch, though our meetings were necessarily infrequent, especially in recent years.
We last met when Henry, on a visit to London, came to a poetry reading I gave at the Torriano Meeting House in Kentish Town in 2014. We met again for coffee the next day, shortly before his return to Canada, and, as we said our farewells, I remember wondering if we would have the chance to meet again. Sadly, we would not. His loss is keenly felt and I shall miss the arrival of envelopes from across the Atlantic with my name and address in Henry’s distinctive handwriting, but I am comforted by my memories of a man who made the world a better place with his wit, his kindness, his generosity and his multifarious talents.
Read his obituary in The Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2021/nov/24/henry-woolf-obituary
Jeremy Page, Editor of The Frogmore Papers