Previewed 19 June 2013, Opened 26 June 2013, Closed 14 September 2013 at the Duchess Theatre in London
A major revival of August Wilson's classic play Fences in London starring Lenny Henry and directed by Paulette Randall.
Troy Maxson was once a gifted athlete but was denied his shot at the big time and now struggles through daily life in Pittsburgh. Resentful of a world he believes has denied him chances at every turn, he takes out his anger on his loyal wife and sports-obsessed son. Set during the 1950s between the Korean and Vietnam wars, it is the story of a family trying to hold itself together and of what happens when a strong man is robbed of his dreams - a universal story which will touch a chord in every heart.
August Wilson's Fences is one of the great American dramas of the 20th century, written as one the the ten plays that make up his 'Pittsburgh Cycle', Fences won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama when it was written in 1987.
The cast for Fences in London features Lenny Henry along with Tanya Moodie, Colin McFarlane, Peter Bankole and Ashley Zhangazha. It is directed by Paulette Randall with designs by Libby Watson, lighting by Johanna Town and sound by Al Ashford. This production comes into London's West End following a short UK regional tour.
"After testing himself against Othello, Lenny Henry takes on another substantial part: Troy Maxson, the former Negro League baseball star turned garbage man in August Wilson's 1987 Pulitzer prizewinner. Henry doesn't rise to heights you hadn't anticipated and knock the role out of the ballpark, but he gives an assured, creditable performance as a man squaring off against the disappointments of his life... Fences considers the barriers hemming in African-Americans before and during the desegregation era, but what's strongest in Paulette Randall's production is the drama of a marriage being scuppered." The Sunday Times
"Troy's name suggests a wrecked nobility. Maybe that's the case. He claims he would have been a baseball star had he not been fenced in by racism, his overbearing, violent father and 15 years in the state penitentiary. He appears to be a reformed character and a reliable breadwinner, working 'on the rubbish'. In fact, he's the first-ever 'coloured' dustcart driver. And he's settled, married to Rose and raising young Cory. He routinely gets smashed with his mate, Bono, on payday, but he continues to build the fence round his tiny house and it's nearly done. Why? Well, as someone remarks: 'Some people build fences to keep people out and some to keep people in,' and this is the tension at the heart of this potentially compelling character, pulled between conformity and irresponsible freedom. Henry's Troy has an easy, rangy physicality, but seldom suggests a man fraught with contradictions and dangerously fit to implode... The play relies too heavily on symbols, especially baseball and fences, and does much telling and too little showing, but Paulette Randall's production has its compensations, particularly in the moody jazz music between the scenes. And Tanya Moodie is superb as Rose, blazing with the moral strength and selflessness Troy lacks. Colin McFarlane is equally convincing as Troy's old friend, and Terence Maynard makes brain-damaged war veteran Gabriel lovable and intriguing. But both August Wilson and Lenny Henry have done better." The Mail on Sunday
"[August Wilson] is not consistent - he can be stodgy and laborious - but at his best he makes the stage a place of exceptionally generous, constantly shifting sympathies. A place where everyone gets a shout. Paulette Randall's compelling revival of Fences shows that this is one of Wilson's finest achievements. It's also one of Lenny Henry's, who gives his best stage performance to date as a seductive, selfish, warm, unfaithful, wounded and unkind man, a garbage collector who wanted to be a baseball player. The fences of the title are being built on stage (real sawing), where Libby Watson's design has created a shabby clapboard house in Pittsburgh: it's welcoming, though people continually survey each other through its windows. Fences are also being built in characters' minds, keeping people out and keeping people in... This is not only Henry's evening. It is also Tanya Moodie's, who swings fiercely and lusciously through the action, betrayed but not put-upon. She moves, as do the uniformly strong cast, to music directed by Delroy Murray that goes to the centre of Wilson's play, shot through with the blues but full of exuberance." The Observer
Lenny Henry was last seen in London at the National Theatre where he played the role of 'Antipholus of Syracuse' in Dominic Cooke's production of William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors at the Olivier Theatre in 2012. Prior to this he made his West End acting debut playing the title role in Barrie Rutter's production of William Shakespeare's Othello at the Trafalgar Studios in 2009. As a stand-up comedian Lenny Henry has performed for a season at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre in 2003.
This is only the second time that August Wilson's Fences has played in London's West End. The first time was for a six week run in 1990 at the Garrick Theatre in a production directed by Alby James and starring Yaphet Kotto as 'Troy' along with Sally Sagoe and Adrian Lester.
Fences in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 19 June 2013, opened on 26 June 2013 and closed on 14 September 2013.