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October 16, 2018

Sir Lenny Henry to play Richard Pryor in one-man play

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BBC/Getty Images

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Sir Lenny has admitted to “channelling Pryor” in his early years in comedy

Sir Lenny Henry is to play US comedian Richard Pryor in a one-man play he has written himself.

Richard Pryor on Fire will be staged at the National Theatre in London in 2020.

Paulette Randall, who directed Sir Lenny in a 2013 production of August Wilson’s play Fences, will direct him in the play.

Henry has described Pryor, who died in 2005 at the age of 65, as his “comedy hero” and presented a documentary on Radio 4 about the comic last year.

“He was one of the greatest comedians who ever drew breath,” he told the BBC after Pryor’s death.

“He documented every pain, every abuse he’d ever suffered in his life, and he made it funny.”

Pryor was a pioneering stand-up comic whose uncompromising humour blazed a trail for other black performers.

His comedy focused unsparingly on politics, race relations and his own struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.

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Getty Images

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Pryor began his comedy career in the 1960s

In 1980 he suffered serious burns after setting himself on fire while freebasing cocaine – an incident he later said had been a suicide attempt.

The star of such films as Silver Streak, Stir Crazy and Superman III was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986.

Richard Pryor on Fire, Sir Lenny’s first play for the stage, was among a raft of new productions announced by the National Theatre on Wednesday.

Others include an adaptation of Small Island, Andrea Levy’s prize-winning novel about the Windrush generation.

Sir David Hare is to write a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt in a co-production with next year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

The National is also staging new productions of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, Rutherford and Son by Githa Sowerby and Moliere’s Tartuffe.

Sir Lenny, who turned 60 this year, made his National Theatre debut in 2011 in The Comedy of Errors.

His other writing credits include Danny and the Human Zoo, a 2015 TV drama based on his teenage years.

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Source BBC News

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