August in England starring Lenny Henry – Reviews ★★★★

August in England, written by and starring Lenny Henry has opened at the Bush Theatre in London.

August in England is a poignant, funny insight into the lives impacted by the injustice of the Windrush scandal, using the character of Jamaican-born everyman August Henderson.

The play is co-directed by the Bush Artistic Director, Lynette Linton (Sweat, House of Ife), and Associate Artistic Director, Daniel Bailey (Red Pitch, The High Table), and runs at the Bush Theatre until 10 June 2023.

Read reviews, below, from London critics including The Times, The Stage, The Guardian and the Evening Standard, with more reviews to follow.

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Average Critics Rating

August in England reviews

The Times

"Charismatic Henry delivers an unconventional solo piece"

"At the end of the 90-minute piece, Henry lets us listen to the video testimony of victims of the Home Office’s bureaucratic machine. Does he need to add that touch of realism? Perhaps not, but Henry wants us to be angry that so many folk were put through so much trauma because of an ill-conceived attempt to pursue illegal immigrants."

"Henry being Henry, the piece starts by softening us up with a genial barrage of jokes, music and one-liners. Neatly co-directed by Daniel Bailey and Lynette Linton..."

"True, Henry could afford to cut the running time by ten minutes or so — but his charisma and commitment still sweep you along."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Evening Standard

"Lenny Henry’s Windrush play is passionate, funny and hugely affecting"

"Henry can confidently add ‘playwright’ to his already polymathic CV"

"Lenny Henry’s first play, a monologue he also expertly performs, is a fierce indictment of our government’s mistreatment of Windrush generation immigrants."

"This isn’t a ground-breaking play and sometimes the comic patter threatens to overwhelm the story. But it’s passionate, well-crafted, and directed with economy and pace by the Bush’s Lynette Linton and Daniel Bailey in a production that showcases Henry’s innate rapport with an audience."

"It looks like the comedy and the sentiment come easily to Henry, but the moments when August is overwhelmed with desolation are wrenchingly affecting."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Guardian

"Lenny Henry’s remarkable one-man show about the Windrush scandal"

"The actor makes his debut as a playwright with a richly detailed character study, performing with warm humour and outrage at injustice"

"... Henry holds court with a bountiful supply of jokes, accompanied by near constant reggae. Upon taking the stage as August Henderson he is equal parts standup working the club and party host keeping guests lubricated. Drinks are handed out to the audience from a trolley."

"The physical detail in Henry’s performance is wonderful, from his early dances with Clarice (“my top half was Black Country but the bottom half was pure Jamaican”) to the way he caresses his armchair, one hand balling into a fist (a recurring motif), as he laments the pair’s lost intimacy."

"... the sense of a tragedy still unfolding is underlined by climactic documentary testimony from three of those whose lives were ruined by the scandal. They share the fury, fear – and, strikingly, the humour – of a remarkable play that fits this theatre like a glove but deserves to find audiences further afield too."

Chris Wiegand, The Guardian
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The Independent

"Lenny Henry’s Windrush play is punchy and poignant"

"Henry’s debut play is an impressive vehicle for his comic talent, but the script struggles to flow between the jokes"

"Lenny Henry could have picked a less complex subject for his first play than the Windrush generation. To turn it into a comedy monologue seems like a different feat altogether. Yet, somehow, he pulls it off."

"The stand-up comedian and Comic Relief co-founder imbues the character with his own quick wit and impeccable comic timing. At times, the script struggles to smoothly link the laughs with the trauma of the situation, but Henry’s performance is a thing to behold."

"The jokes are so tight they leave you reeling, with the one-liners forming the fabric of August in England."

"While ricocheting from comedy to tragedy and back again can give the audience whiplash – the saddest moments interspersed with big laughs and vice versa – it doesn’t downplay the emotional heft of Henry’s performance."

Isobel Lewis, The Independent
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"Beguiling playwrighting debut from Lenny Henry, utterly winning as an affable Caribbean-born fruitseller ensnared by the Windrush scandal"

"... Sir Lenny Henry’s sunny but ultimately devastating first play centres on a man named August, who’s as much a part of the nation’s furniture as any calendar month."

"Henry really knows how to captivate an audience, leading us along with him like we're eager dogs on strings as he takes us on an amble through August's formative years."

"Henry's so good at joy but perhaps there could be more moody introspection here."

"‘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."

Alice Saville, TimeOut
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i News

"Lenny Henry makes a blazing playwriting debut"

"The comedian’s one-man show tackles the Windrush Scandal with surprising levity"

"It’s a full and satisfying journey, delivered compellingly by Henry, who shifts between Jamaican and Black Country accents in a performance that often feels like a charismatic friend delivering his sharpest anecdotes."

"We’re periodically jarred out of the warm storytelling by flashes of CCTV footage. As the show progresses, interruptions become more frequent. Letters appear. Phones ring. Henry effectively portrays the sudden intrusion on August’s life: the confusion, then panic, then brutal reality of a racist policy tearing through his peaceful existence."

Rachael Healy, i News
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The Stage

"Lenny Henry charms in his powerful debut play"

"Poignant monologue explores the experiences of the Windrush generation with humour and heart"

"Gentle, witty humour and sharp social commentary sit side by side in this heartfelt debut play, written and performed by actor, broadcaster and comic Lenny Henry."

"Henry’s charisma and easy rapport with the audience carries the somewhat unfocused show. August is full of wry, sly jokes and quiet pride in the small business he’s run and the family he’s raised, a cheeky smile crossing his face with every punchline he deploys."

"Co-directors Daniel Bailey and Lynette Linton give Henry’s script plenty of room to breathe with an unhurried, uncluttered staging, adding just a few stylised touches to energise the production."

"Despite the relatable charm of Henry’s entertaining character sketch, the play is at its most powerfully moving when he takes a step back to foreground these often-ignored voices."

Dave Fargnoli, The Stage
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The Telegraph

"Lenny Henry blazes with charisma in his devastating debut play"

"Centring on the Windrush scandal, Henry's debut as a playwright cleverly blends hurt and humour – and he also delivers a real star turn"

"Now, with his debut play, August in England, premiering at the Bush Theatre as part of its 50th-anniversary celebrations and showcasing his considerable strengths as an entertainer, Henry can add playwright to his long list of accomplishments. And August in England, which is part monologue, part stand-up routine and part theatre as activism, is a clever bit of writing bolstered by Henry’s charismatic performance."

"Henry brings a striking compression to his script, impeccable timing to his punchlines and a physicality that is fantastically nuanced."

Dzifa Benson, The Telegraph
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The Financial Times

"Lenny Henry shines in the wonderful, shocking Windrush drama August in England"

"Henry, delivering his script with the twin weapons of a lifetime’s experience of stand-up comedy and direction from Lynette Linton and Daniel Bailey, is irresistible."

"It’s a superb performance — immensely vivid, funny and warm — and in it lies Henry’s point: that this is a man, with a whole rich, round life lived in Britain, who has negotiated racism, experienced hope and loss, worked, built a home, fathered children. These anecdotes document his time here and his right to belong in a way no paperwork can."

"Henry’s play could shift the balance of sweet and sour and there is a clunky plot twist you can see coming for miles. But at the end it hits home as the stage is turned over to filmed testimony from three people who went through this ordeal for real at great personal cost."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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The Observer

"In his powerful debut play, Lenny Henry draws his audience deep into the life – and its shattering – of a Windrush evictee"

"It is rare for an actor to arouse the reaction that Henry gets when he comes on stage. It is recognition, expectation and exhilaration. Yet also something else. The audience seem to be saying: you are ours. A star, but one who will take us by the hand. Now he exercises the same power with his first play – a one-hander – in which he involves an audience in the appalling government treatment of the Windrush generation."

"For all Henry begins cockahoop, hip swirling, bum winking, this is the opposite of a showoff show. Directed by Daniel Bailey and Lynette Linton, he takes his spectators deep into relaxed everyday life."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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📷 Main photo: Lenny Henry in August in England. Photo by Tristram Kenton

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