The thing which strikes one most about Henry is his intensity, combined with his clear humanity and good nature. Playing the maniacally mean Gareth Blackstock in "Chef", he was always still relatable and likable and human. There was always a softness to his meanness that showed his true nature.
One cannot think of Lenny Henry, without thinking of him smiling.
I've also said many times before, that though it is relatively rare to see a dramatic actor do well with comedy (they usually don't have the timing); it's amazing how often a comedic actor will surprise and delight you with their dramatic capabilities (Danny Kaye being probably the most outstanding example I can think of).
Finally, I haven't seen a good Othello in at least ten years. Late last year I found out they had done a production with Eamonn Walker (of "Oz" fame for most Americans); and I REALLY wanted to see that (I'm a big fan of Walker. Amazing expressive capacity in that man). I'm in luck in that it was recorded for the BBC so I may be able to get my hands on it; but it's not the same as live.
So imagine my jealousy of those who have the opportunity to see this:
I heard that Idris Elba (of "The Wire") was also doing an Othello production; but it was also going to be in London (where Elba is originally from).
Rather than a theatrical car crash, Othello with Lenny Henry at the West Yorkshire Playhouse is a triumph.
By Charles Spencer
Last Updated: 9:54AM GMT 19 Feb 2009
When I heard that the comedian Lenny Henry was to play Othello it struck me as a cynically opportunistic piece of casting.
Henry is a palpably decent and amiable man, and a genuinely beloved public figure. But, to be frank, he has never struck me as much of a comedian, let alone an actor, and his dramatic experience in the theatre extends only to panto and youthful appearances with the Black and White Minstrels in summer season.
How on earth then was he going to cope with Othello, one of the most challenging roles in dramatic literature, which demands a combination of superb verse speaking and lashings of raw, racked emotion?
Frankly, I was expecting to review a theatrical car crash. What a pleasure then to report that Henry truly triumphed last night.
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Why can't there be a great modern (but not a "reimagining". I want the bards words being spoken in 14th century italy) American production of Othello, starring an American?
There are no shortage of great black actors in America. Laurence Fishburne played Othello in Brannaghs production (I enjoyed it, but it was an uneven production and an uneven performance). I'd bet that Forrest Whitaker could play an amazing Othello.
I'd really like to see it.