Review Round Up: August in England, Bush Theatre

We round up the reviews for Lenny Henry’s play, running at the Bush Theatre until the 10th June 2023.

© Tristram Kenton

WhatsOnStage: *** “Henry’s comedy roots are obvious to see as he laughs and jokes his way through the storytelling. He casually interacts with the crowd and happily acknowledges the ample support being verbalised by the engaged audience. It often feels a little too much like a stand-up routine, however, and the dramatic takes a back seat far too often. The vast majority of the 90 minutes (no interval) is spent looking back at August’s life. It paints a vivid picture of the man, kind-hearted but flawed, aspirational yet content. But it leaves little time to fully examine the effects of the trauma that unfolds following the arrival of a letter threatening deportation.”

The Guardian: ***** “What a treat it is to see such a seasoned standup command an intimate room like this, his timing impeccable as he roars through gags and adds some exquisite act-outs – whether August’s mother patting her wig or his bandmate making love to a guitar that simply isn’t in the mood.”

Evening Standard: **** “It looks like the comedy and the sentiment come easily to Henry, but the moments when August is overwhelmed with desolation are wrenchingly affecting. He can’t name the disease that claims one of his loved ones, and he turns bashfully from us when wracked by convulsive sobs. Later, events bring him to his knees and force a howl from his throat. If you still think of Henry as ‘just’ a superlative comic writer and performer, the genial co-founder and frontman of Comic Relief, these moments will disabuse you.”

iNews: **** “Co-directed by the Bush Theatre’s Lynette Linton and Daniel Bailey, the play adds to the venue’s record for nuanced exploration of underserved stories, seen in productions such as Waleed Akhtar’s The P Word and Travis Alabanza’s Overflow.”

Time Out: **** “August in England’ is both a seriously impressive writing debut, and a considerable creative statement of intent from a household-name comedian who could have easily packed out a West End barn with an hour of affable reminisces. Let’s hope it’s the start of a fruitful new season in Henry’s career.”

The Independent: *** “Henry’s debut play is an impressive vehicle for his comic talent, but the script struggles to flow between the jokes.”

All That Dazzles: **** “Lenny Henry has created a moving and funny piece that will make you fall in love with August Henderson and then break your heart as his life appears to be torn apart. Littered with Henry’s trademark one liners, he never uses comedy as a distraction, Henry’s comedy and charisma as August Henderson only serve to further highlight the appalling treatment of the victims of the Windrush scandal. It’s a poignant and important look at themes of race and identity that absolutely need exploring, especially in the year of the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the HMT Empire Windrush. Witty, poignant and heart-breaking, this is an incredible play which is forthcoming and understandable in its outrage.”

The Stage: **** “Lenny Henry’s heartfelt debut play explores the experiences of the Windrush generation with humour and heart.”

The Telegraph: ***** “Centring on the Windrush scandal, Henry’s debut as a playwright cleverly blends hurt and humour – and he also delivers a real star turn.”

Lost in Theatreland: **** “This is an astounding debut from Henry and is performed exceptionally well. He manages to carefully craft a character that is impossible not to love, and therefore the emotional moments of the play are felt much more strongly. Henry is electric, he gives a stellar performance, and August in England is a vital story which needs to be told.”

Lou Reviews: ***** “Co-directed by Daniel Bailey and Lynette Linton, August in England places Henry as not just a gifted serious actor but a promising playwright who has a way with words crafted from years on the comedy circuit enhanced with real tenderness and feeling.”

Broadway World: **** “For many of us, so familiar with his work, it is often hard to differentiate between Henry the actor and Henry the stand-up here. He shows a warm, naturally comedic ease that comes from years performing in front of live audiences, showcasing his natural Brummie accent, laced with a warm Jamaican patois.”

August in England continues to play at the Bush Theatre until the 10th June.

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