Henry to make UK stage debut as Othello

Henry to make UK stage debut as Othello

Lenny Henry is to make his stage acting debut as Othello, it was announced today.

The comedian will star in a production of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy on a national UK tour.

Henry, who turned 50 this year, said the role was a “new challenge” and “daunting”.

He was inspired to play the part after making the film 'True Identity' in Los Angeles.

In the comedy, Henry played a black actor who wants a role in Othello but has to adopt the identity of a white man to escape the Mafia.

He said: “The sub-plot involved my character understudying (actor) James Earl Jones in the role of Othello.

“He and I discussed the role many times over the filming period, and as one of America’s premier black actors, I felt honoured to have the privilege of his wisdom.

“He told me that when the time was right I should jump in with both feet, work hard, keep my eyes and ears open and let the text do all the heavy lifting.”

He added: “I hope to get a diverse audience, people that haven’t been to the theatre before.

“I do see this as something I’m going to want to do more of. I really like theatre and my wife (Dawn French) has done a lot of theatre.

“I’ve seen her acting ability grow over the past 14 years and it clearly expands your brain.

“It’s like doing the Knowledge. It gives you gravitas.”

Henry, who hit the limelight after winning the talent show New Faces in 1975, made a Radio 4 programme in 2006 about overcoming his schoolboy hatred of Shakespeare

He has said: “It seemed to me that Shakespeare was very much in the province of posh people.

“I’m black, I’m working-class. Shakespeare’s not for people like us.

“But then when you study it, the way I have been. You realise that it’s for everybody.”

Barrie Rutter, who will be directing the new production, said: “I first met Lenny over a microphone whilst recording an Othello speech for Radio 4.

“Afterwards, Lenny declared to me that sitting with his back against a wall, learning lines in a company of actors was a strong desire of his.

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