Tiswas Reunited (TV Recording): ITV Southbank Studios, London, 2007
Play: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui: Donmar Warehouse, London, 2017
Every Saturday morning between 1974 and 1982, I used to love to watch anarchic pie-throwing TV classic children’s show Tiswas. Between 1977 and 1981, the show featured a very young Lenny Henry who had just won the talent competition New Faces in 1975 (which I remember watching). Henry gave the show many great characters but one memorable one stands out – Algernon Winston Spencer Castlereagh Razzmatazz, a bizarre Rasta character with a woolly hat, diet of condensed milk sandwiches and armed with the catchphrase “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” which was adapted into his very own catchy song. I used to love it when he sang the song and Henry’s characters were talked about in the playground at school for weeks. His star way back then was on the rise.
Henry co-founded (with Richard Curtis) the charity Comic Relief which provides projects, both in the UK and through the world, that are successfully tackling equality and making permanent change. The charity has to date made in excess of 1 billion pounds since it began in 1985. Red Nose Day is held every two years in mid-March and has attracted many comedians over the years which feature alongside Henry in the TV marathon show that is broadcast in the evening on BBC television. The show has contained many classic comedy sketches all designed to persuade the public to dig deep in the pockets and give money. In 2003, I successfully completed a 15-hour sponsored silence and in 2007, I wrote and appeared in a play and performed three performances which both together raised over £3500 for the worthwhile cause.
Becoming one of my favourite TV recordings, I was genuinely delighted to attend Tiswas Reunited in 2007 which reunited all the stars from the TV show including Henry. It was brilliant to see the very popular comedian and entertainer going back to where it began by recalling classic sketches and routines.
Ten years later, Henry tried his hand at serious acting when he starred in the play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Donmar Warehouse in London. As I sat in my seat before the play started, he came into the audience and shook everybody’s hand and chatted before the play started. He proved that he had the metal to take on a leading role in the play which was a big success.
Over the years Henry has done a huge amount to establish black actors and was justly awarded with a knighthood for services to charity and entertainment. Who knows what is next for this hugely talented very likeable comic which will be interesting and fun to find out.