I remembered Lenny Henry as the eccentric star of the late-night TV show 'TISWAS' thirty years ago; but not having a television I heard no more about him until he started to appear in radio plays on Radio 4.
'Almost Always African' by Annie Caulfield, was the first radio play in which Lenny Henry appeared. Since then he has appeared in many more, and recently he has begun to write plays of his own. ;
The late Claire Grove, a well-known producer, introduced many writers to radio, including Lenny Henry, Mike Bartlett, Charlotte Jones, Bryony Lavery, Sebastian Baczkiewicz and Shelley Silas.
The notes below include some of the radio plays in which Lenny has appeared and the two (so far) which he has written.
He has appeared as the compere at the recently - introduced Audio Drama Awards which are announced each January, and as most of you will be aware, he is now Sir Lenny.
By Annie Caulfield. 29 Nov 97; rpt. When two childhood friends are reunited, their friendship begins to crack under the strain of secrets and lies. Perhaps they never really knew each other at all. With Linus Roache, Lenny Henry and Adjoa Andoh. Producer: Sally Avens.
Saturday Play - Slavery: The Making Of....2007
By Peter Jukes. 24 Mar 07: A look behind the scenes of a fictional creative process to see what really goes on when an illustrious group of actors and a radio producer grapple with the problem of how to re-enact stories about the slave trade? How can you reconstruct scenes of such suffering and torment? The result is a funny; doomed attempt to make an improvised drama-documentary about slavery. From an idea by Lenny Henry. Len ...... Lenny Henry, Brian ...... Brian Blessed, Howard ...... Greg Wise, Adrian ...... Adrian Lester, Leila ...... Jenny Jules, Jo ...... Joanna Scanlan, Steven ...... Sam Dale, Francine Stock ...... Francine Stock.
Anansi Boys ....2007
By Neil Gaiman, adapted by Mike Walker.17 Nov 07. Life starts to get interesting for Fat Charlie, with the arrival of a brother he never knew and the knowledge his dad was Anansi... The original novel is a companion to Gaiman's earlier American Gods. In Anansi Boys we discover that Mr Nancy (Anansi) has two sons, and the two sons in turn discover each other. The novel follows their adventures as they explore their common heritage. It stars Lenny Henry as Spider and Fat Charlie, Matt Lucas as Graham Coats and Tiger, Rudolph Walker as Anansi, Dona Croll as Mrs Noah and the Bird Woman, Tameka Empson as Mrs Higgler, Petra Letang as Rosie, Jocelyn Jee Esien as Daisy, and Ben Crowe as Cabbies and other voices. Producer Anne Edyvean. World Service.
By Peter Jukes. 30 Jul 08. As a police chaplain; it is Jake Thorne's job to offer counselling and comfort to officers in trouble; victims and young offenders. But Jake has lost his faith and has decided; as a test for God; to behave appallingly towards those he is supposed to help. Yet despite his unworthy behaviour; he unwittingly demonstrates that he has another less sinful side. Jake Thorne ...... Lenny Henry, Michael ...... Danny Sapani, Ruth Thorne ...... Jenny Jules, Isaac Thorne ...... Oscar James, Helen ...... Helen Longworth, Denise ...... Rosie Cavaliero, Chantelle ...... Kerri Mclean, Declan ...... Ben Crowe, TJ ...... Daniel Anderson, Barry ...... Edward Clayton. Not sure of the producer, but probably Claire Grove.
Classic Serial: Matilda ....2009
Dramatisation by Charlotte Jones of Roald Dahl's modern children's classic about a cool; calm; pint-size five-year-old genius. Ep. 1: 20 Dec 09. Narrator ...... Lenny Henry, Matilda ...... Lauren Mote, Miss Trunchbull ......Nichola McAuliffe, Mrs. Wormwood ...... Claire Rushbrook, Mr Wormwood ...... John Biggins, Miss Honey ...... Emerald O'Hanrahan, Mrs Phelps ...... Kate Layden, Michael ...... Ryan Watson, Bruce Bogtrotter ...... Joshua Swinney, Nobby ...... Rhys Jennings, Lavender ...... Sinead Michael, Hortensia ...... Lizzy Watts. Directed by Claire Grove. Part of the BBC Christmas 2009 season.
STILL THE SAME PAUL....2010
21 Feb 2010; rpt 2011. By Annie Caulfield. Lenny Henry was the lead in this BBC Radio 3 drama about actor and singer Paul Robeson. The play also featured Corey Johnson, Alex Lanipekun, Alibe Parsons and Adjua Andoh.
1 May 11 R3; play about the life of the singer and political activist Paul Robeson. Apparently he was an apologist for Stalin and a pursuer of civil rights. He was disliked by the CIA which got him into a number of scrapes. Produced by Claire Grove. 90m. (....... ND notes, Diversity website)
BBC blurb: Lenny Henry stars as singer and political activist Paul Robeson. As an outspoken apologist for Stalin and agitator for civil rights Paul Robeson had many enemies, including the CIA. His passport was taken away, his career curtailed and his health threatened. An FBI agent re-examines his story. Paul Robeson - Lenny Henry, Essie Robeson - Adjoa Andoh, Michael Vincent - Corey Johnson, Helen Rosen - Joanne Monro, Marian - Alibe Parsons, Phillips - David Seddon, Secretary of State - Rufus Wright, Frank - Alex Lanipekun. Director Claire Grove. (90m).
Saturday Play 27 Feb 10; Lenny Henry as actor. Northern Broadsides theatre company's version of Shakespeare's tragedy of love turned sour. Iago ...... Conrad Nelson, Roderigo ...... Matt Connor, Brabantio ...... Geoff Leesley, Othello ...... Lenny Henry, Cassio ...... Richard Standing, Duke/Gratiano ...... David Beckford, Senator/Lodovico ...... Simon Holland Roberts, Desdemona ...... Jessica Harris, Montano ...... Andy Cryer, Emilia ...... Sara Poyzer, Herald/Gentleman ...... Chris Pearse, Bianca ...... Victoria Gee. Directed by Barrie Rutter. Producer David Hunter.
CORRINNE COME BACK AND GONE....2011
A first radio play by Lenny Henry will be broadcast on 30 May. There is a long article about this in the Radio Times, 28 May - 3 Jun, pages 116 - 117. It begins in Jamaica. The title character of the drama, Corinne, goes to see a terrifying old woman and asks her to cast a spell on her abusive husband so that her daughter, who will be left with him, will be protected. Then she flees the country. The producer is Claire Grove. .....ND, 24 May 2011.
30 May 2011; by Lenny Henry. Corrinne Jackson gets a letter from her daughter inviting her to return to Jamaica after twenty years. Her husband is dead. Twenty years earlier she fled to the UK leaving her children behind. Now there's a chance to set things right. This is Lenny Henry's first radio play, having recently completed an MA (with distinction) in screenwriting. And Lenny has a good story to tell. Women abandoning their children is a highly emotive subject in any culture and Lenny's family are from Jamaica, where the play is set. In the play Corrinne is optimistic that by returning she can bridge the gap the years have created and be forgiven before it is too late. Like many Caribbean women of her generation she has been separated from her children by poverty. Corrinne...Claire Benedict, Miss Valda...Dona Croll, Bridie...Nadine Marshall, Ruth...Clare Perkins, Simone...Petra Letang, Marcus...Alex Lanipekun, Child Bridie...Leah Ocran.
ND notes ...
30 May 11; a first radio play written by Lenny Henry. There is a long article about this in the Radio Times, 28 May - 3 Jun, pages 116 - 117. It begins in Jamaica. The title character of the drama, Corinne, goes to see a terrifying old woman and asks her to cast a spell on her abusive husband so that her daughter, who will be left with him, will be protected. Then she flees the country. The producer was Claire Grove.
Some comments from Gillian Reynolds' "Daily Telegraph" review ....
.....The characters were strong, the plot gripping, the structure imaginative, the ending a surprise, the acting superb. It was about what women do when stuck inside a violent partnership; about revenge and its perils.
Cast: Claire Benedict, Dona Croll, Nadine Marshall, Clare Perkins, Petra Letang, Alex Lanipekun, Leah Crane(sp?).
MISS YOU STILL....2013
By Lenny Henry. This play, Lenny's second (R4,1415, 1 Aug 13) was a rather grim social story with supernatural overtones. A Midlands bus-driver, Charlie has lost both his wife and his daughter. He has fallen into depression, become a recluse, and is unable to come to terms with his grief. A local lady, Joyce, who has also lost a partner, involved in church and charity work to keep her mind occupied, reaches out to him. The result is akin to a match being dropped in a box of fireworks. Lenny Henry played Charlie, Clare Perkins was Joyce, with Bunmi Mojekwu, Amit Shah, Alex Lanipekun and Tranae Sinclair and produced by Claire Grove. (ND, 'Diversity' website review, Sep 2013)
Summary of RT notes: Lenny Henry's second radio play; a harrowing social story with supernatural overtones. A Midlands bus-driver has lost his wife and then his daughter. He has become a recluse, and is unable to come to terms with his grief. It's an excellent piece of writing which holds the listener's attention throughout. Producer: Claire Grove.
Partial summary of Jane Anderson's remarks from RT:
....Miss You Still is an unusual mixture of wit and the supernatural. Roxanne and her mother have moved to the Midlands after Roxanne's father died playing football. Joyce throws herself into church and charity work to keep her mind occupied. One of the people she reaches out to is Charlie, a West Indian-born bus driver who has withdrawn from the world after a double bereavement. Lenny Henry has described all-consuming grief with taut and often jovial dialogue .... and has written a believable teenage character too....
By Peter Jukes. 5 Mar 2014. Frank is a double murderer allowed out of prison for a series of days before being released on licence. He's been incarcerated since the 80s, and things in the real world have changed. Lenny Henry as Frank; producer Mary Peate.
GOD OF CARNAGE....2016
By Yasmina Reza, translated from French by Christopher Hampton. Saturday Play 23 Jan 2016 with Lenny Henry as actor. Comedy; a fight between two boys brings their two sets of parents together for what should be a civilised discussion to resolve their differences. It degenerates into name calling, tantrums and tears. Polanski made it into a film. Michael: Lenny Henry, Veronica: Rosie Cavaliero, Alan: Joseph Millson, Annette: Monica Dolan. Indie (Catherine Bailey); director James MacDonald.
By Lenny Henry: gritty comedy drama. 5 Jul 16. Juliette takes her new boyfriend and her biggish sons on what she hopes will be a bonding trip to Amsterdam. Juliette: Frances Barber, Earl: Tyrone Huggins, Conroy: Lee Hodge, Junior: Jack Loxton, Lars from Mars: James Lailey, Huge Luke: Ewan Bailey, announcements / commentaries: Scarlett Brookes, Adie Allen, Anne Bunting, Marc Beeby, Shuming Chen. Producer: Mary Peate.
Nigel Deacon / Diversity website
Asterisked plays known to exist in VRPCC collections
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