Comedy legend Lenny Henry comes to Watford on his latest tour
There is really very little that Sir Lenny Henry cannot do. As well as being one of Britain’s best-known and most celebrated comedians, he is also an acclaimed writer, radio DJ, TV presenter, co-founder of Comic Relief and an award-winning actor. In addition, Lenny has a PhD in Media Arts and in 2015 was awarded a knighthood for services to charity and drama.
But now Lenny is returning to his first love: live performance. Kicking off at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 20 October, and coming to Watford Colosseum on Saturday, October 26, the performer is touring the country with a brilliant new show, An Evening with Lenny Henry - Who Am I, Again?
Following the publication by Faber on 3 October of his memoir, also entitled, Who Am I, Again?, Lenny will be travelling the length and breadth of the country with his new show.
In the first half, Lenny treats us to a series of anecdotes - triggered by writing his memoir – which are both hilarious and poignant. He recollects growing up in the Black Country, puberty, school, friendship, family secrets and unabashed racism.
Lenny proceeds to regale the audience with memories of his stellar career. After he burst into the public consciousness in 1975 as the splendidly gifted 16-year-old winner of the TV talent show, New Faces, he enjoyed enormous success on such TV shows as Tiswas, Three of a Kind and The Lenny Henry Show. Despite his huge popularity, however, Lenny could not help himself wondering at every stage: “Am I good enough? Is this what they want?”
In the second half, Lenny will be interviewed by friend, broadcaster and author Jon Canter, offering further insights into his life and career.
The performer says he can’t wait to be back on stage.
“Live performance is just the best,” asserts Lenny. “Being in front of an audience is the best thing you can do. Films and telly are extra, but live is you unfiltered.”
The performer, who has also starred in such sitcoms as Chef! and The Fosters, goes on to recall the greatest live show he ever witnessed.
“What Morecambe and Wise did in front of a live audience was very different to what they did on telly. Eric was probably 20 times funnier on stage than he was on telly. I worked with him in 1979, and it was one of the most extraordinary live experiences I have ever had. It was so funny and loose.
“I try to get to the same space when I perform live, create a real sense that this is unmediated and unmitigated.”
The show will be bolstered by the presence of his legions of loyal fans, who have followed him up and down the country for the last four decades. The performer, 61, who has also appeared in such top-class dramas as Broadchurch, Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle, The Long Song, The Syndicate, and Hope and Glory, reflects on the amazing rapport he has with his audience.
“What is lovely is that my audience has grown with me over the years, they get me – and what I’m trying to do – I cherish that.”
The other aspect of live performance that he adores is that he can improvise. Lenny, who has also given memorable stage performances in Othello, The Comedy of Errors, Educating Rita and King Hedley II, reveals that: “With this show, the audiences are not just going to get a prepared, scripted presentation, but the bits in between, too
“My favourite comedians are the ones that have not only put in the hard work on their show, but they can also, swim between sections of their script and fool around.
“Those are my favourite performances: where you’re allowed to improvise right then and there. That’s what’s really exciting about live performance; you’re not watching a robot; you’re watching a human being.”
Even though his live show is tied to the publication of his memoir, the performer is swift to point out that this is very far from a conventional book tour.
He discloses that: “I thought, ‘I’m not going to do the normal book tour thing.’ How can I do that? I’m not sure comedians are supposed to do book tours in the way other people do them.
“There is a weight of expectation about a book tour, and people would be severely disappointed if a comedian started to navel gaze and talk about how his parents beat him viciously as a child. People are not going to get therapy on stage from me. They will get stories, character stuff and songs.”
As he looks back on his early years in the business, Lenny underscores how valuable they have been in forming him as a comedian.
“If you write a book about your early years, there is a palpable sense that the past is another country and that you’re looking at yourself from 1,000 miles away.
“This kind of reflection can make you realise why you are the way you are in the present day - I’ve noticed that I now stick up for myself and also want to be an integral part of the creative process, which all stems from the experience of my first 10 years in the business.”
Lenny closes by emphasising that the show should not only be entertaining but also provide insight into his true identity.
“I hope people enjoy their evening out with me – but I also want them to feel at the end, that they’ve learnt something about who I am and how I got there. This is a Len they’ve never met before.”
Finally, what does he hope audiences will take away from the show?
And, no doubt, many laughs.
An Evening With Lenny Henry UK tour comes to Watford Colosseum on Saturday, October 26. For tickets visit lennyhenryontour.net
Lenny Henry’s autobiography Who Am I, Again? is published by Faber, £20, out now.
Bucks Free Press
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Last updated by System Admin on 27th August, 2018