Henry’s change of direction

Lenny Henry
Lenny Henry

COMEDIAN Lenny Henry will be taking a less comedic approach when he appears at Milton Keynes Theatre next week.

Following on from his role as Othello in the West End, Henry stars as Troy Maxson in Fences which starts on Monday and runs to Saturday, March 23. It’s the story of Maxson, a once gifted athelete, denied his shot at the big time but who struggles through daily life in Pittsburgh.

He is resentful of a world he believes has denied him chances at every turn, he takes out his anger on a sports-obsessed son and his loyal wife.

Speaking to the Daventry Express Lenny said: “The character I play was a star in baseball leagues for black people but he didn’t quite make the break ad he is very angry at the world that he never got the break.

“He feels he should have been a major star.

It was the quality of the writing which attracted Lenny to the part.

He said: “What I really want to do is push the name of August Wilson, because I think he is a brilliant writer. He is up there with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller for me as one of the very best.

“He had written a few plays and was challenged to come up with something with a flawed central character that was very moving, and this play was his riposte and it is a great script.

“There are a lot of elements to the script. There are issues with his life, his wife and his son, so it is very a deep show.

“It is a part played by James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington in the past, so I’m in good company.”

But he is not under estimating the size of the part.

Lenny said: “The part of Troy has more lines than King Lear.” But when asked whether this was part of the appeal, he joked: “Absolutely not. If anything, you want less lines so you can go to the toilet if you are caught short.

“But seriously, I think the ability to move an audience en masse is a challenge I really like, especially if they are weeping like I did with Othello. And I am getting a lot of theatre work at the moment and really enjoying it. Fences is a fantastic show with wonderful writing and one that I hope will move people as well.”

But he does have plans in other areas.

Lenny said: “I am probably known as a comedian, and that doesn’t bother me. There is also a transfer of this show to London.

“But at the moment, I have written a film and a sitcom and we’ll just see what happens.”

The show is at 7.30pm each evening with a matinee on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets cost between £10 and £33.50 and can be booked by calling the box office on 0844 871 7652 or visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes.