Lenny Henry to make playwright debut with Windrush drama | Theatre

Lenny Henry to make playwright debut with Windrush drama | Theatre

Lenny Henry is to make his debut as a playwright with a drama about the injustice of the Windrush scandal.

Henry will also star in the one-man show, August in England, which is to be staged at the Bush in west London in spring 2023 as part of the theatre’s 50th birthday celebrations. The play, he said, “is a story that needs to be told about the scandal, and the massive effect it had and continues to have on our community”.

His character, August Henderson, is described as a charmer with the gift of the gab, who is “proud of the life he has built since landing in his beloved West Bromwich”. August’s father arrived in England from Jamaica in 1960, with young August and his mother joining him a couple of years later. Now, August runs a fruit-and-veg shop, has three children and is engaged to be married but he suddenly finds himself faced with deportation to a country of which he has no memory.

“I’m excited to be presenting my first ever play at London’s home of new writing during its 50th year,” said Henry, who is of Caribbean origin and was born in Dudley, not far from West Bromwich. “I’ve long been a fan of the Bush and their programme which both reflects our modern world but importantly also discovers and develops new diverse talent for the industry.” August in England will be co-directed by Lynette Linton, the Bush’s artistic director, and Daniel Bailey, who has received acclaim for his current production at the theatre, Red Pitch, about gentrification, youth and sport.

In 2017 the Guardian uncovered the Windrush scandal, in which thousands of legal residents in the UK who had arrived from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971 were misclassified as illegal immigrants. This led to people losing access to benefits, being made homeless and facing detention or deportation. Many of the individuals affected had come to the UK from the Caribbean as children but lacked paperwork.

Henry, who said he “felt the sting of this injustice sharply”, previously explored the scandal as executive producer and star of the 2019 TV monologues Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle, co-produced by the Young Vic theatre. With those short dramas, he said at the time, “we wanted to honour the pioneering generation, now in their twilight years” and “give voice to a marginalised community, currently being threatened with deportation from a motherland they thought had welcomed them with open arms”.

When the Bush presented its first ever production in 1972 it was based above a pub of the same name in west London. It now has a vibrant, recently redeveloped home around the corner in Shepherd’s Bush. The actors and playwrights whose careers were boosted by the Bush include Alan Rickman, Cush Jumbo, Victoria Wood, James Graham and Arinzé Kene. Linton said the Bush would celebrate “half a century of doing what we do best: providing for and reflecting the community around us and commissioning plays which give voice to unheard and marginalised voices, often during difficult times”.

The 50th birthday season will also include new plays by Waleed Akhtar, Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini, Will Jackson, Anoushka Lucas, Nikhil Parmar, Margaret Perry, Ambreen Razia and Beru Tessema.


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