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Review: Lenny Henry in Cambridge

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Sir Lenny brought his An Evening with Lenny Henry: Who Am I, Again? tour to the Corn Exchange on Monday, November 25.

Lenny Henry
Lenny Henry

One of Britain’s most celebrated comedians, Lenny Henry has, since he shot to fame winning TV talent show New Faces in 1975, branched out into serious acting, writing, screenwriting, presenting and co-founding Comic Relief.

The first half began with a montage on a screen showing some clips of Lenny's television appearances over the years.

The man himself then came out to a rapturous reception from what he later called "the whitest audience I've ever seen."

He proceeded to essentially tell his interesting life story growing up in Dudley, reading from his recently published autobiography, Who Am I, Again? - which was for sale in the foyer and which he jokingly tried to plug throughout the show.

While most of the anecdotes recounted in this trip down memory lane were heartwarming and funny, there were a couple of moments where the audience sat in stunned silence listening to Lenny describe some of the awful racist treatment he received growing up.

Although he successfully managed to 'h'integrate' (something his mother had encouraged him to do), becoming firm friends with a group of local English lads - with whom he is still in touch - life was certainly far from easy.

The first half was definitely entertaining - Lenny's hilarious and spot-on impression of Frank Spencer on New Faces was shown at the end of the half - but for me there were not to many laugh-out-loud moments. That would come in the second half.

Lenny Henry
Lenny Henry

In part two, Lenny was interviewed by friend, broadcaster and author Jon Canter, for further insights into his life and career.

He recalled what it was like working in the 1970s, revealed how he went back to studying - finally graduating last year with a PhD in media studies specialising in sports films - and how he got into serious acting.

No mention of that excellent 90s sitcom, Chef!, though unfortunately.

Canter's questions were insightful and an animated Lenny often stood up to give entertaining and energetic answers, slipping, on one occasion, into one of his comic creations from 'back in the day', Theophilus P. Wilderbeest.

He told some gags as the character, saying afterwards that he can't say those type of jokes any more ever since #MeToo happened - a shame really as they were extremely funny.

The likeable star was also incredibly amusing when doing his Tommy Cooper impressions.

His impersonation of Cooper is, like his Frank Spencer, absolutely first-rate and he told a series of quick-fire jokes in the style of the much-missed comedian.

As he's now become famous for so many things, it's perhaps easy to forget that Sir Lenny initially started out as a brilliant impressionist and stand-up comedian.

It was great to be reminded of this, and to reconnect with that Lenny Henry, at the Corn Exchange on Monday. A great night.

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