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Henry Woolf (born 1930) is a Britishmarker actor, theatre director, and teacher of acting, drama, and theatre who lives in Canadamarker, and a longtime friend and collaborator of 2005 Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, having stimulated Pinter to write his first play, The Room (1957) in 1956. Woolf served as a faculty member at the University of Saskatchewanmarker from 1983 to 1997 and as artistic director of Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan from 1991 until 2001.

Personal history and educational background

Born to Jewish parents in Londonmarker in 1930, Henry Woolf was educated at Hackney Downs Schoolmarker, where he met Harold Pinter; he and Pinter were friends and collaborators for over 60 years. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of London and then pursued a postgraduate course in directing at the University of Bristolmarker, Bristolmarker, Englandmarker, before going to the United Statesmarker, to earn a postgraduate diploma from the College of William and Marymarker, in Williamsburg, Virginiamarker. While doing his directing course at Bristol, he commissioned and directed Harold Pinter's first play, The Room (1957), in which he also originated the role of Mr. Kidd.

In 1978, with his wife, actress/director Susan Williamson, whom he married in 1965, Woolf moved to Canadamarker, eventually settling in Saskatoonmarker, Saskatchewanmarker, where they currently reside. They have four children.

Professional career

Woolf is described as "a living icon of the theatrical avant-garde, an actor who throughout the 1960s would appear (for pitiful pay) in any play that broke new boundaries" (Eyre and Wright 229). During the 60s, he acted in theatre companies in London, leading to various tours in New Yorkmarker and elsewhere, working alongside such contemporaries as Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles and Ralph Richardson.

His film credits include Marat/Sade (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), Steptoe and Son (1972), Steptoe and Son Ride Again (1973), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Gorky Park (1983), Superman III (1983). He still makes occasional film appearances, in the 2004 short film, Of Note and most recently in the 2007 short film smallfilm. In All You Need Is Cash, a film by The Rutles (a fictional mock-Beatles band jointly created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes), Woolf played a character named Arthur Sultan, a fictional spoof of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

On British television he played the Man in Harold Pinter's one-man play Monologue (1973); parts in Rutland Weekend Television (1975) and The Sweeney (1975); the the Collector in the Doctor Who serial The Sun Makers; served as the host of the 1970s pre-school British educational series Words and Pictures; and performed the role of Doctor Cornelius in the BBC adaptation of Prince Caspian (1989).

Woolf joined the faculty of the University of Saskatchewanmarker in 1983, was promoted to professor in 1990, also serving as head of its Drama department, and received the University's Master Teacher Award in 1994, before retiring in 1997, at the Canadian mandatory retirement age of 67. Woolf also served as artistic director of the annual summer Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival, in Saskatoonmarker, from 1991 until his retirement from that position in 2001.

In March 2003, Woolf directed an all-female production of Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare, at the University of Winnipegmarker.

In April 2007, he reprised his roles as Mr. Kidd in a production of Pinter's The Room (1957), marking the 50th anniversary of the original production, and as the Man in Pinter's Monologue (1973), both of which occurred at the University of Leedsmarker conference Artist and Citizen: 50 Years of Performing Pinter.



  • Merritt, Susan Hollis. "Talking about Pinter". The Pinter Review: Collected Essays 2001 and 2002. Ed. Francis Gillen and Steven H. Gale (Tampa: U of Tampa P, 2002). 144–67. (On the Lincoln Centermarker 2001: Harold Pinter Festival Symposia; Woolf participated in "Actors on Pinter", along with Blythe Danner and Liev Schreiber, as quoted.)
  • –––. "Monologue at Lincoln Center". Pinter Review (2002): 171–82. (Extended performance rev. (19 July 2001) incorporating interview with Woolf (the Man) and director Gari Jones, conducted in New York Citymarker, on 29 July 2001.)
  • Nathan, David. " First Impressions: Room for a Little One". Jewish Chronicle 17 March 2000: 43. (Lead: "Actor Henry Woolf went to school with Harold Pinter and helped him get his [break?] in the theatre with 'The Room'. Now, Henry and Harold are working together again, David Nathan reports.") [Includes interview with Woolf. Viewable and printable version accessible only to paid subscribers.]
  • Woolf, Henry. "My 60 Years in Harold's Gang". The Guardian 12 July 2007, Stage. Accessed 21 August 2008.

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