Lenny Henry stars in Fences at Theatre Royal Bath
Theatre Royal Bath
It seems astonishing that such a vast picture can be painted by writer August Wilson on so small a stage.
Yet all at once he gives us a glimpse into the ordinary lives of African Americans across at least three generations, he looks at parenthood from both sides and the role of women in holding a family together. He looks at friendship, loyalty and the troubled country of 'what might have been'.
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Any one of those might have made a play on its own. Then at the centre of it all is the towering figure of Troy Maxson, one of the great creations of late 20th century theatre.
Unsurprisingly a longish list of big names has played the role. Now added to the list, thanks to our own Theatre Royal Bath Productions, we have Lenny Henry.
If you saw him a few years back in the starring role of Othello at the Theatre Royal you won't be very much surprised to learn that he takes this powerful, complicated, brutal, yet sometimes heartrendingly gentle man and makes him his very own.
If the production goes into London's West End, as it surely should, it will be another stonking success for the Bath based company.
The play returns us to the post war years in America where Troy works as a rubbish collector – hauling the bins while the white men drive the trucks.
He might have been a great sportsman – or so he thinks – but for the colour of his skin.
His own boyhood was ruled by the iron fist in the iron glove of his own father and though, in theory, he wants the best for his own boy, in practice he wants him to do as he demands or else go and find somewhere else to live. There is no question of the world having moved on even very slightly for Troy Maxon.
If you are lucky to be close enough you see all the different emotions that make up Troy played out across Lenny Henry's face as we see the bitter physical results of complicated love/hate relationships acted out across the stage.
While Troy teaches us quite a lot we didn't know about our own feelings of violence, his wife Rose, played by Tanya Moodie, has much to tell us of forgiveness and the unselfish face of love.
A wonderful production that has much to teach us about ourselves, our families and about the world.
It runs until Saturday March 2.