Lenny Henry in classic drama on Milton Keynes stage

Lenny Henry in rehearsal
Lenny Henry in rehearsal
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One of the UK’s best-loved performers will be starring in a classic drama at Milton Keynes Theatre this month.

Following his triumphant performance as Othello in the West End, Lenny Henry is now taking on one of the 20th century’s most unforgettable characters in Fences, by American playwright August Wilson, which began a short UK tour at the Bath Theatre Royal last month.

The show will be coming to Milton Keynes Theatre from Monday to Saturday, March 18 to 23.

Written in 1983, Fences is set in 1950s Pittsburgh.

The second of Wilson’s plays to go to Broadway, it won him the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics’ Award.

Like all of Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle of plays, Fences explores the evolving African-American experience and examines race relations, among other themes.

Troy Maxson was once a gifted athlete but was denied his turn at the big time and now struggles through daily life, working as a rubbish collector in Pittsburgh.

Resentful of a world he believes has denied him chances at every turn, he takes out his anger on a sports-obsessed son and his loyal wife.

Fences is deemed to be one of the greatest American dramas of the 20th century, and winner of the New York Drama.

Set 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.

Lenny Henry follows in a line of distinguished performers who have played the extraordinary central character, including James Earl Jones, Laurence Fishburne and Denzel Washington.

Writing in the grand tradition of Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller, August Wilson is widely considered to be one of the most significant contributors to American drama and has won almost every significant award.

His plays have been produced all over the world.

The play is directed by Paulette Randall, who has directed plays for the Royal Court and theatres throughout the UK, as well as television directing credits for the BBC and Channel 4.

She is the former artistic director of Talawa Theatre Company and was an associate director of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

This is the fifth August Wilson play she has directed.

The show is produced by Theatre Royal Bath Productions, whose recent productions include Alay Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, starring Felicity Kendall and Kara Tointon, which sold out at theatres across the UK, and The Judas Kiss, starring Rupert Everett.

Both shows are transferring to the West End.

On his blog, Lenny Henry said of Fences: “It’s a wonderful play – profound and funny and moving (sometimes all at the same time).

“I’m honoured to be working with such a wonderful cast and team – all of whom are on the same page.”

Performances of Fences are at 7.30pm each night, with Wednesday and Saurday matinees at 2.30pm.

Tickets can be booked via the Milton Keynes Theatre box office on 0844 871 7652 or online at www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes