Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Published April 10th 2013
Lenny Henry is seriously good in sombre role
British comedian Lenny Henry is better known for his grinning face, big laugh and Dudley accent. He's renowned for being lovable, warm and loud, like his DJ character Delbert Wilkins back in the late 1980s.
But shrug off every image you may have of Henry as in this iconic play, Fences, he is something far more stern, intense and thought-provoking, befitting of this double Pulitzer Prize-winning play by American playwright August Wilson.
Lenny Henry stars in play Fences at Malvern Theatres
The play reflects African-American life in 1950s America. It's a warts and all portrayal of the relationship struggles, economic hardships, regrets, betrayals and missed opportunities between one family.
Fences, set in the 1950s, is the most successful of Wilson's ten plays, called the Pittsburgh Cycle, which detail life in an African-American neighbourhood through each decade of the 20th Century.
As troubled Troy Maxson, a bearded Henry plays an overbearing cynical bin man, whose tough unrelenting personality affects all the people he loves the most, including wife Rose.
Despite the warning of close friend Jim, played by an excellent Colin McFarlane, Troy cannot risk putting everything on the line.
Lenny Henry with co-star Colin McFarlane
The drama unfolds as Troy tries to build a new fence around his house and juggles dysfunctional relationships with his eldest son Lyons, an unemployed musician, his youngest son Cory, who lives in Troy's shadow, and his mentally ill brother Gabriel.
There is a small cast, but every single one of them gives a strong performance.
Emotional scenes in Fences
It is a Theatre Royal Bath production, directed by former Talawa artistic director Paulette Randall, whose credits include another August Wilson play Radio Golf, along with Crossings and Five Guys Named Moe.
Often sentimental, sometimes heartbreaking and beautifully written, this play is a sombre look at life for one Black family, and it earned the most serious side of Henry. The ultimate winners are the audience.