Director Paulette Randall has honed these real performances for this excellent production. By the end of the play we know each and every one of August Wilson’s characters. Wilson’s language is powerful and poetic. Libby Watson’s set is the spacious Pittsburgh house bought with brother Gabriel’s compensatory payment for his war wound and surrounded by greenery as well as the eponymous fences.
Over the past fifteen years, Northern Broadsides have quietly carved out an impressive reputation for earthy, grounded productions which feature clarity, energy and very often Northern accents. Their approach is not only no nonsense, but also forbids frippery, clutter and theatrical snobbery. It was therefore quite surprising that they chose a celebrity comedian, who had never acted on stage before and whose opinion of the bard was largely a leftover of schoolboy antipathy, to tackle one of Shakespeare's great tragic heroes. However, unconstrained by thoughts of elitism, they elected Lenny Henry, the well-loved and self-styled "Jamaican from Dudley" to metamorphose himself into the Moor of Venice.