King Hedley II
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King Hedley II

3 (1) · Contemporary

Lenny Henry in August Wilson's ferocious exploration of redemption in 1980s America.

Lyn Gardner avatar
23 May 2019  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“The late August Wilson knew how to tell a good story. He does exactly that in this play set in Pittsburgh in the 1980s, part of Wilson’s epic cycle of plays about the black American experience in the 20th century. Lenny Henry—so good in Wilson’s ‘Fences’ a few years back—plays Elmore, a smooth-talking hustler whose arrival threatens the future of the ex-con Headley, a man who has already served seven years in jail but who keeps finding that the past is always going to catch up with him. Nadia Fall directs a play reminiscent of Arthur Miller and Greek tragedy.”


1980s Pittsburgh, a city in decay. Against the backdrop of Reagan’s America, King, an ex-con, is trying to rebuild his life and start a family.

He’s got hopes and dreams of opening a video store and building a new life. If only he can get ten thousand dollars together, if only he can catch a break. In his dusty backyard he plots and plans with his friend Mister, but is this all a pipe dream?

Featuring Lenny Henry as smooth-talking hustler Elmore, August Wilson’s touching and angry King Hedley II is a quest for redemption for one man and a whole community.

Age Recommendation: 14+

Critic reviews

Lenny Henry returns to August Wilson in a searing, epic production that is fantastically performed and full of rage

The Stage

A committed production of an intense and difficult play, not always easy to watch, but somehow worth it


This powerful play offers a clear and important message

London Theatre

Lenny Henry is excellent as a dangerous hustler in this thunderous August Wilson revival

Time Out

It’s that classic tale of a man desperate to be somebody, but with no idea how

The Upcoming

August Wilson’s overheated story of an ex-con attempting to rebuild his life is buoyed by an energetic cast with meaty roles

The Guardian

Lenny Henry saunters around the stage brimming with menace in this powerful bit of theatre

The Times

Lenny Henry stars in King Hedley II, August Wilson’s epic drama of African American family life

Financial Times

Lenny Henry brings power to tragedy with weight and darkness

Evening Standard

A soulful revival of chilling relevance and a dandy Lenny Henry

The Telegraph

A snapshot of life


Wilson endows his setting with a rare sense of foreboding, as if the quantity of guns being brandished about wasn’t enough

The Arts Desk

Date & time

Show ended
Fri 17 May - Sat 15 Jun, 2pm, 7pm & 7.30pm


Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square E15 1BN London, UK · Get Directions
out of 5 stars
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