Drawing: Denzel Washington in Fences

Autographed drawing of actor Denzel Washington in Fences at Broadway's Cort Theatre

This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced on Monday and while Denzel Washington’s name wasn’t included this time he has had his fair share of Oscar success. His nine nominations include two wins for Best Supporting Actor as Private Silas Trip in the American Civil War drama GLORY (1989) and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in TRAINING DAY (2001).

In fact he has received a career total of 96 Award nominations, winning 39, which also includes three Golden Globes. His sole Tony success was for his performance as Troy Maxson, a former baseball player working as a waste collector and struggling to support his family in the revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play FENCES, which opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April 2010 for a limited 13 week engagement. It received ten Tony nominations, winning three, including Best Revival. In 2016 he starred, directed and produced the film adaption, which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor, winning the Screen Actors Guild award.

Seven years ago Denzel attended the premiere of FLIGHT at London’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square in which he played an airline pilot with a drinking problem, and yes, as per usual was Oscar nominated. I managed to get him to sign my FENCES sketch as he walked the red carpet, not an easy feat given his popularity.

Drawing: Lenny Henry in Fences

lenny henry fences

Lenworth George Henry, known as Lenny, and better known as a comedian and co-founder of Comic Relief is now a ‘serious actor’.

Back in 2009 he dived in the classical deep end, taking on the titanic role of Othello as a Shakespearean novice to critical acclaim. He now takes on the massive lead role in the Pulitzer Prize winning drama, Fences in the West End.

Fences is the sixth in a series of ten plays by August Wilson on the Pittsburgh Cycle, that explore the African American experience in each decade of the twentieth century.

The story centres around 53 year Troy Moxson and his struggles with providing for his family and cheating death. He was a great baseball player in his youth but couldn’t make a living due to the colour barrier. Imprisoned for an accidental murder during a robbery, he now has a menial, but respectable job as a garbageman.

It previewed in March 1987 on Broadway at The 46th Street Theater and ran for 525 performances. James Earl Jones played Troy and won a Tony Award, along with Best Play, Best Direction and Best Actress (Mary Alice) nods. A revival in 2010 at The Cort Theatre featured Denzel Washington and Viola Davies in the lead roles. Both won Tony Awards for their performances and the productions won Best Revival of a play, after receiving an impressive 10 nominations.

In early 2013 Fences was revived by Theatre Royal Bath in the UK, starring Lenny in the lead role and directed by Paulette Randall, before transferring to the Duchess Theatre in London in June. Critical reception has focused on Lenny’s performance which has attracted wide acclaim. Paul Taylor from The Independent said, “the performance cements Henry’s status as a serious actor.”

Charles Spencer from The Telegraph said of Lenny, “He is, and I don’t use the word lightly, magnificent.”