Henry, who admitted recently to being "allergic" to Shakespeare until an Open University course changed his mind, has become something of a national treasure since making his television debut in 1975 at the age of 17. He soon became a leading fixture on the stand-up comedy scene, and has myriad tv credits including Three of a Kind, Chef!, The Lenny Henry Show and Hope and Glory.
One of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, Othello centres on the destruction of a Moorish General after he's tricked by his jealous ensign Iago into believing his young wife Desdemona has had an affair. Henry is joined in the cast by Jessica Harris as Desdemona, Conrad Nelson as Iago and Maeve Larkin as Emilia.
"I was expecting to review a theatrical car crash" admitted Charles Spencer in the Telegraph, before, like most of his critical colleagues, lavishing praise on Rutter's production - "one of the most astonishing debuts in Shakespeare I have ever seen" according to Spencer. Not all were totally convined, with more than one critic highlighting some weaknesses in Henry's diction. But the overall sentiments were positive, with Conrad Nelson impressing as Iago (more than one notice made use of the descriptive "reptilian"), and Maeve Larkin credited by most for lending Emilia "a rare and moving integrity".
- by Theo Bosanquet