Lenny's tribute to Robeson

Comic to star in Radio 3 play

Lenny Henry is to play American actor Paul Robeson in a BBC radio drama detailing how his political activism cost him his career.

The son of a slave, Robeson used his athletic skill to put himself through law school, then became a respected musician and actor. He is probably best known for his Broadway portrayal of Othello and his rendition of Ol Man River.

But his career was essentially stifled by the US government, which revoked his passport because of his outspoken campaigns against racism. He first played Othello in Britain, and, before the ban, most of his films were made here.

Robeson was also banned by the NBC network, and was one of the only major figures to appear before the McCarthy anti-communist ‘witch-hunt’ committees who directly challenged his interrogators.

Henry, who will make his theatrical debut playing Othello next year, is the driving force behind the 75-minute drama, titled I’m Still the Same Paul.

Actors’ newspaper The Stage reports that the comedian has enlisted writer Annie Caulfield to pen the drama, which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 next year.

She said: ‘There is so much more to him and the thing that most people don’t know is that he was very political and he sort of ruined his career with his politics. At that time it was just unacceptable and people wanted him to just be quiet and behave.’

Caulfield wrote a play for Radio 3 this summer, Your Only Man, which gave comic Dara O’Briain a rare starring role

Published: 12 Nov 2008

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