Drawing: Lenny Henry, Conrad Nelson and Jessica Harris in Othello at Trafalgar Studios

Henry, Nelson, Harris 001

Comedian Lenny Henry made his Shakespearean debut as Othello – one of the most challenging roles in dramatic literature. After opening at the West Yorkshire Playhouse it transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in London in November 2009. Lenny received widespread critical acclaim in the title role with The Daily Telegraph saying ‘This is one of the most astonishing debuts in Shakespeare…” Conrad Nelson was equally impressive, as the vile and reptilian antagonist, Iago and Jessica Harris played the Moor’s wife Desdemona.

All three signed my sketch after I saw a matinee performance in December 2009.

My other Lenny Henry sketch is here.

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.”