The Wetherby U3A column by Caroline Green: Salad Days with the Musical Theatre Group

I remember as a child being taken to the theatre. It was to a light-hearted musical comedy called Salad Days in London. In 1954 it must have been a huge expense for my parents for this was a new show in so many ways.

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 12:34 pm
Wetherby and District U3A members enjoying the Musical Theatre Group.

My parents bought an LP of the music from the show so that we could listen to it again at home, which we did almost every day as we were growing up and were able to recite the parts and sing the songs together.

When I met my ‘husband to be’ in 1968, almost the very first date we ever went on was to see an open-air production of Salad Days in Worcester College, Oxford.

The tickets cost 6s 6d each and we sat on the lawn in the college garden, singing about beginning a whole new chapter in our lives. I had just left the WRNS and he was just about to come down from New College, Oxford.

This happy go lucky, frivolous story, full of innocence and fun has always held a special place in my musical memory and so when I bumped into Lynn Coyne recently, we started chatting about the U3A ‘Enjoying Musical Theatre Group’ of which she is a member.

When she told me, that at their next meeting the group would be exploring Salad Days I asked if I could go along.

It was all arranged with Barry Atkinson, group leader, and on the appointed day I joined the group for their very own production of Salad Days.

I took along my LP and my two tickets from 1968 that my husband had kept all these years, unbeknownst to me.

The whole afternoon was equally as much fun as the two previous productions I’d seen, but so different.

Barry had brought the music and the script and told us some of the history of the musical.

It was first staged at the Bristol Old Vic in 1954 and then transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre in London on August 5, 1954 and ran for 2,283 performances and has been playing somewhere in the world ever since.

Salad Days was the longest running British Show in the history of British Musical Theatre until it was overtaken by Oliver! in 1960. Several members of the group had vivid memories of seeing it in the 1950s and 60s and others performed it with Wetherby Musical Theatre Group in the 1980s and at the Leeds City Varieties.

The story is about a girl and a boy leaving university and being pressurised by their parents to ‘do something’.

The girl to ‘find a young man and get married’ and the boy to ‘find a job’.

Interesting that at the age of 21 the main characters were referred to as a boy and a girl and that the show is still being played somewhere in the world surely harks back to another time. Barry played the soundtrack of the show and it sounded so very ‘English’ in its vowel sounds, and we were reminded that ‘sex’ was what the posh people put their coal in!

Everyone took turns to read different parts in their best English accent and I was reminded how awful the script was!

The entire U3A ‘company’ collapsed in giggles several times through the reading and we were encouraged to sing along and join in with the songs which we did with gusto. These hopeful songs, with lovely melodies, a something and nothing story with a very funny dialogue, appealed to so many people in the post war years.

The entire musical was meant as an exercise in looking forward to a future that’s at the very least as happy as the past.

The two main characters sum up the feelings of hopefulness in the last song ‘We Said we Wouldn’t Look Back’.

The entire afternoon was a sheer delight, transporting many of us back to a time when we were young and carefree. It was such fun to share the music and memories with people who love music and for whom it is life.

Maybe you plan to take youngsters to the theatre this Christmas and possibly establish a life-long love of musical theatre.