Lenny Henry

Norwich Theatre Royal

> Norwich Theatre Royal

I didn't know it was possible to give the Theatre Royal a Jamaican atmosphere, especially not on a nippy, October night. Lenny Henry not only suggested it, he made it happen.

“Go on!” he said, to a sea of white faces, “Laugh like a black person!”

There was some reticence at first, especially when he invited us to jump on stage with him, but sooner rather than later, we lost our very British reserve and the temperature in the theatre seemed to rise.

The sketches Lenny performed appeared so effortless, it was almost like a conversation with one of your best friends.

But despite the naturalness, it was obvious that this was a highly-crafted show, thought out along classic, comic lines.

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The stand-up began by drawing attention to himself: “Yes, I'm taller than you expected...” (and he was, actually), which led to gags about his blackness: “100 years ago, if I'd stood here on the stage, you'd have been saying: the teeth are good; I'll take him.”

He then pushed the focus out to us, drawing everyone together as we sympathised with audience members who'd been singled out for gentle humiliation: the pregnant woman in the front row whose waters might break if she laughed too hard; the man with the outrageous beard, who wanted to be known as Santa Claus.

As he confided in these people, and wove them into the fabric of his flights of fancy, I felt they were as much my friends as he was, just for the one night.

And this wasn't just a sketch show, there were all kinds of elements to it: a bit of anecdote about Lenny's Black and White Minstrel past; a bit of observational comedy, there was even some dance, and a smattering of really quite impressive singing.

Often when you see celebrities in the flesh, it's a bit of a let down, but I'm tempted to say, that Lenny Henry is even better live!