Tag Archive | "Othello"

Lenny Henry-Comedian

Lenny Henry - Trevor Macdonut

Lenny Henry - Trevor Macdonut

Lenny Henry is one of Britains best known Comedians. Over the last decade Lenny Henry has risen from being a cult star on children’s television to being one of Britain’s best
known and loved personalities – who has had a crucial influence on the creation of black-centred comedy and characters.

His character creations range from Brixton’s favourite wideboy Delbert Wilkins to the one man ‘sex machine’ Theophilus P. Wildebeeste and the Guinness supping Grandpa Deakus. Lenny and his various char acters appeal across all classes, creeds and age groups.

Lenny was born in 1958 in Dudley, West Midlands. "My family came to the UK at a time when blacks were just beginning to be integrated into British society. I was one of just three blacks in our school"

His first television exposure was as a comic on New Faces. In the late seventies he appeared in TISWAS, the Saturday morning children’s’ show in which Lenny was a regular contributor alongside Chris Tarrant and Bob Carolgees.

“TISWAS” represented an anarchic, irreverent style of comedy and Chris Tarrant made a big impression on me. It was then that I began to develop my work – I did Three of a Kind straight afterwards and started looking at what other comedians were doing.  I remember going to the Comedy Store and realising that I didn’t have to rely on
impersonations so much and that I could be funnier by being myself!"

Since 1991 Lenny has worked primarily through his own production company Crucial Films. Lenny’s ‘Step Forward’ Workshop for new writers, in conjunction with the BBC, led to a new comedy series for BBC2. Entitled The Real McCoy, it consisted of six half-hour shows and was designed to present a black perspective through humour, sketches
and musical numbers.

Lenny was the first British comic to make a live stand-up comedy film in the tradition of American comedians such as Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams. Lenny Henry Live and Unleashed was filmed before a live audience at the Hackney Empire and went on general release throughout the UK.

in the early 1990s, Henry starred in the Hollywood film True Identity, in which his character pretended to be a white person (using make-up, prostheses, and a wig) in order to avoid the mob. The film was not commercially successful.

In 1991, he starred in a BBC drama alongside Robbie Coltrane called Alive and Kicking, in which he played a heroin addict, which was based on a true story.



Henry is well known as the choleric chef Gareth Blackstock from the 1990s television comedy series Chef!, or from his 1999 straight-acting lead role in the BBC drama Hope And Glory. He was co-creator and producer of the 1996 BBC drama serial Neverwhere.

Lenny also tried his hand at soul singing, appearing, for example, as a back-up singer on Kate Bush’s album The Red Shoes (1993) and, backed by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, at Amnesty International’s Big 3-0 fund raising concert.

Lenny Henry has long worked in association with British Comic Relief charity organisation, along with his wife, comedienne Dawn French.

Other more recent roles include He was the voice of the “shrunken head” on the Knight Bus in the 2004 movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and read the audio book version of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. He also voices a character on the children’s show Little Robots.

On 16 June 2007, Lenny appeared with Chris Tarrant and Sally James to present a 25th Anniversary episode of Tiswas.

Today children will know his voice from the voices of both Big and Small in the Children’s TV show Big and Small



In February 2009 Henry appeared in the Northern Broadsides production of Othello, in the title role, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.

Henry received widespread critical acclaim in the role. The Daily Telegraph said “This is one of the most astonishing debuts in Shakespeare I have ever seen. It is impossible to praise too highly Henry’s courage in taking on so demanding and exposed a role, and then performing it with such authority and feeling.”

Michael Billington in The Guardian noted “Henry’s voice may not always measure up to the rhetorical music of the verse, but there is a simple dignity to his performance that touches one”.

Henry has said he saw parallels between himself and Othello. “I’m used to being the only black person wherever I go…There was never a black or Asian director when I went to the BBC. Eventually I thought ‘where are they all?’ I spent a lot of time on my own. Things have changed a bit, but rarely at the BBC do I meet anyone of colour in a position of power.”[15]

Henry met his wife and ex-partner Dawn French on the alternative comedy circuit. The couple married in 1984 in Westminster, London;[18] they have an adopted daughter, Billie.

On 6 April 2010, it was announced that Henry and French were to separate after 25 years of marriage.

Posted in Black Britain, Black History, Black People in Europe, Caribbean HistoryComments (1)

Lenny Henry – Othello

Lenny Henry as Othello

Lenny Henry as Othello

If you missed the opportunity to see Lenny Henry Play Othello on the Theatre Circuit last year, you’ll be pleased to know that the BBC ran it on Radio4 Today.
you can also listen to the programme that followed Henry as he prepared for the role.
Listen to the whole Play here on iPlayer.

Posted in African History, Caribbean HistoryComments (1)

Ira Aldridge – The Black Tradgedian

Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge

Aldridge was already, he was a keen actor and he realised that his prospects of Success in racially segregated America were essentially poor.

He made his debut on the English stage and was described as’ the first night of the celebrated American Tragedian in a new and effective melodramatic romance called ‘The Revolt of Surinam ( former Dutch colony in south America) or a slaves revenge’.

He married an English Woman called Margaret Gill, the marriage provoked such anger amongst the Slave Lobby that Aldridge was shunned for a year. Pro slavery forces launched a concerted campaign to prevent him from performing.

This forced Aldridge to act outside london and he took on the parts of Othello and orinooko regularly. However he was also practising part written for white actors, such as Macbeth, King Lear and shylock.

Aldridge came back to London to play Othello at Convent Garden, this was to cause even greater outcry as he acted along side White actress Ellen Tree.

The Times was to lead the attack on Aldridge pronouncing ‘In the name of common Propriety and decency, we protest against an interesting actress and lady like girl, like Miss Ellen Tree, being subjected to the indignity of being pawed by Mr Henry Wallack’s Black Servant.’ The Standard though, supported Aldridge, commenting that he was a first rate actor. The pressure forced the manager of Covent Garden to discontinue Aldridges Performance.

Over the next 19 years Aldridge played mainly the provincial theatres, until July 1852 when he left england for a tour of Europe. He Performed in many European Cities even in St Petersburg, Russia. He returned to England In 1857 . Whilst on tour he had been highly decorated my the Monarchs of europe, he had been made a knight of Saxony.

Now the Newspapers told a very different story, and no theatre could afford to overlook him.  Aldridge died in Lodz, Poland whilst undertaking a second European tour.

A quote from a biography of Aldridges’ life says’

This was the man the unhonoured and uncelebrated and unknown people, held in slavery gave the world. It was from an epic struggle of his people to overthrow their masters that this great Negro Tragedian derived his strength, his genius, all his magnificent art

BBC Radio Programme

Kwame Kwei-Armah traces the life and work of Ira Aldridge, a black actor who defied racial prejudice to become one of Britain’s finest Shakespearean actors.

When Aldridge first appeared on the London stage in 1825, he was enthusiastically received by the public but the critics hated him, The Times going so far as to say that he could not pronounce English properly, ‘owing to the shape of his lips’. Here was a black man daring to break into the heartland of the British ‘classics’, which had hitherto been the exclusive domain of white actors.

But, undeterred by the racial hostility of the press, Aldridge became a perpetually touring player, an exotic ‘star’, honing his skills in the provinces and across Europe. In a career spanning 30 years, he became one of Britain’s finest Shakespearean players, and had more honours showered upon him than any other actor of his time.

Broadcast on:
BBC Radio 4, 11:30am Thursday 8th October 2009
30 minutes
Available until:
12:02pm Thursday 15th October 2009

Listen: BBC iplayer

Posted in African American History, African History, Black Britain, Black People in EuropeComments (1)