Lenny Henry is a treasured and well respected comedian, presenter, impressionist and a critically acclaimed actor. He is the person who is always bold in including racial issues in his comedy. Working behind the scenes alongside his creative collaborators, he has been co-writer of this project designed to bring the already established Rudy’s Rare Records Radio 4 show to the stage.
This production is currently running in The HOUSE at The Rep Birmingham and is a fabulous introduction to the autumn calendar, and a well chosen marker to celebrate one year on from the reopening of the theatre and the iconic library building next to it.
So to fit the occasion aptly, we must first recognize that Henry feels very much at home in Birmingham; although this is his first time at the theatre. This fun show provides a real trip back in time for its Birmingham audience. Throughout the 1970s Jamaican reggae was influencing a new generation; and it was wholly resonating in our UK lives at this time. A new fabric of life from our urban settings was being created; straight out of places like Handsworth … and in his own inimitable style, Henry delivers as Adam. Adam being the middle one of three generations of men from the same family, he is truly feeling the full weight of responsibility for both the elder and the younger member that is either side of him.
The comedy is a little corny, but the top laugh is always achieved because of the timing of the delivery and rhythm of the accents used, and we have wonderful, intelligent contribution from Larrington Walker (Rudy), Jeffrey Kissoon (Clifton) and Lorna Gayle (Doreen) who are playful and funny. These three are defiant and proud and a little mischievous, nevertheless there’s a thread of innocence and vulnerability running through the characterization. All six characters we witness being at odds and ends with themselves over a personal worry; including the youngsters Tasha and Richie, played by Natasha Godfrey and Jovian Wade respectively. In fact many elements are present to demonstrate very well the light and shade of life – and the reggae beat, the rapping, and the soulful sounds played live throughout by a fantastic four piece band, and vocalized and performed by members of the cast is pure icing on the cake.
I love Henry, he always captures a past that falls within living memory and we relate to it, that is why his comedy is so appealing and he never needs much of an excuse to exercise his ability to deliver a tune with his wide ranging vocal, or wiggle in the groove – Don’t ever Stop that messin’ around’ Lenny!
Photography by Robert Day
Review by Debra Hall, who attended Press Night on Tuesday 9th September at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Review also appears at Remotegoat Stage.
Note: Following its premiere in Birmingham Rudy’s Rare Record’s will run at Hackney Empire from 24 Sept – 5 Oct,