17 FEBRUARY 2009

Comedian Lenny Henry added another string to his bow on Valentine's Day, making his stage debut as Shakespeare's Othello.

A long way from his Tiswas days, Lenny is starring as the Moor in a month-long run at the Leeds' West Yorkshire playhouse. And he'll remain with the production when it goes on tour in the UK.

Despite describing himself as previously being "slightly allergic to Shakespeare", the 50-year-old has thrown himself into his new role with the Northern Broadsides theatre company, which presents classic texts through a northern voice.

"This is the most exciting thing I've ever done," he says of his lead role in the classic tale of jealousy, betrayal and love. "I've never acted on stage with other people before."

Especially supportive of Lenny's new venture is his wife Dawn French, who also rings the changes between comedy and drama roles. "My wife has been so encouraging with this, she's definitely going to be here," Lenny revealed. "She's done lots of theatre and she always says the more stage time you get the better it makes you as an actor."

Photo: Rex
Lenny has the lead role in one of Shakepeare's best-known tragedies
Photo: Rex
The 50-year-old Dudley-born comedian plays Othello opposite Jessica Harris, who stars as his ill-fated wife Desdemona