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Lenny Henry 'so proud of the 48 millions lives we've saved'
LENNY Henry talks fast, so fast it’s hard to take down what he’s saying.
But then he’s got a lot to talk about – his new play, his acting career and of course Comic Relief – before he has to rush back to rehearsals.
He’s still delighted to hear about Oxford’s £50,000 Red Nose Day Community Cash grant scheme though, being offered to 50 small groups.
“That is cool, no it’s important,” he stresses. “It’s a huge achievement and I’m very proud of Comic Relief and the work it does.”
The same could be said of him of course, because Lenny was one of the original Comic Relief founders back in 1985, not that he’ll ever rest on his laurels.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” he says, “although we have raised £600m, saved 48 million lives, malnutrition is down, education is up. It’s fantastic, there’s lots of good news coming from Africa and it’s a continent emerging from its miasma of poverty.”
And if Lenny is as entertaining as ever, Comic Relief shows no signs of slowing down, gearing up for another TV special bonanza on Friday night.
“When you have the biggest entertainers in Britain vying to get on to the show, from Russell Brand in Wembley Park to One Direction in Africa and Jonathan Ross in Ghana...as long as that continues, it won’t change.”
That Lenny Henry has reinvented himself as an actor is as much down to his determination and sheer-bloodymindness as his newly found thespian skills.
Because following his divorce from fellow comic Dawn French – with whom he has a daughter Billie – he enrolled on an English degree, fell in love with the classics, landed the part of Othello in the West End and is now cutting his teeth in some weighty plays.
“If you want to act and be taken seriously, form a new mould for yourself, you have to take big challenges like Fences and that’s what I’ve done,” he says.
Coming to the Oxford Playhouse later this month, Fences is an African-American play set in the 1950s about a father and son’s working relationship.
Oxfordshire Community Foundation spokesman Ash Merry said: “Lenny Henry’s support is a huge boost for Red Nose Day and the community groups across Oxfordshire who have been phoning constantly for the cash which will be able to enrich so many different lives in the county. Huge thanks go to Lenny and the other supporters.”
Lenny Henry will be appearing on Comic Relief on Friday, March 15, BBC1.
He is in Fences from March 25 to March 30. Box office on 01865 305305.