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WATCH: Lenny Henry roots for his hometown in drama

Dudley | News | Published:

'Brilliant, heartwarming and a walk down memory lane' – that's how Black Country folk summed up Sir Lenny Henry's new drama.

Residents from across the Dudley borough spoke of their delight that local landmarks including Dudley Zoo, Buffery Park and the historic Queen Mary Ballroom were featured in the film.

They were at the special screening at Dudley's Showcase Cinema at Castlegate of Danny and the Human Zoo, which was written by the star and is a fictionalised account of his life as a teenager in Dudley.

Half of the crowd on the red carpet for the broadcast on Thursday night were from the local area – but Sir Lenny's fans also travelled from far and wide to be present.

Sir Lenny portrays Samson Fearon in the drama, which stars newcomer Kascion Franklin, who is from Wednesbury, as his son Danny – an aspiring impressionist – and Cecilia Noble as Danny's mother Myrtle.

The Comic Relief star said the film was a 'fantasy memoir' version of his life in Dudley in the 1970s.

Nazir Ahmed, 57, was in the same class as Sir Lenny at The Blue Coat School and said the show 'put Dudley on the map'.

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Mr Ahmed, of Blackacre Road, praised the screen representation of the town.

"It brought memories back to me and it's true to everything about that era.

"It's put Dudley on the map and I'm really proud of Lenny.

"He's obviously still attached to Dudley and really likes the town.

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"It looked amazing on the screen and Dudley still hasn't lost its charm," he said.

From left, Cherrelle Skeete, Lenny, director Destiny Ekaragha and Kascion Franklin

Michelle Jeffries, 34, moved to Dudley when she was nine and said she was proud to see the town on the big screen.

The Barclays counter manager, who now lives in Gornal, said Dudley Zoo, the Queen Mary Ballroom and Buffery Park being featured on the silver screen was 'fantastic'.

"I thought it was brilliant, it was heartwarming and funny.

"I particularly liked the fact it was set where it was filmed and it was nostalgic.

"Dudley looked fantastic in the film and it made you proud to be from here.

"It brought up a lot of emotions – laughter, sadness and things you can see in your own families."

Lenny Henry poses for selfies with his loyal fans

Linda Tromans, 59, from Wordsley, who works in accounts, said the drama was 'a walk down memory lane'.

"I loved it. I was born here in the area, frequented the same places, so it just brought back memories of my teenage years. There was a lot of nostalgia for my youth – the clothes, the men's hair, the music, how the venues used to be."

Sales manager Suky Kaliray and his wife Mo, 26, used to work alongside rising star Franklin at Next in Wednesbury and said they were delighted by his success.

Mr Kaliray, 30, from Wolverhampton, said: "It was wicked – me and my wife both enjoyed it. I was brought up in a similar multi-cultural upbringing and thought the family dynamic was really funny.

"It's a similar mentality in Indian families – even though it's a different culture.

"The whole thing was the perfect balance. At times it made you laugh, but then at others times it made you think."

Wednesbury resident Stan Matthews, 57, said the evocative 1970s set, music and costumes struck a chord with his memories of the era. Mr Matthews said: "I thought it was absolutely brilliant and every cast member acted their socks off.

"For a chap of a certain age group there was nostalgia for that time, it took me straight back to the 70s. I'm working away when it's on TV, but I've already asked my wife to set the video for it."

Sandra Fisher, from Shrewsbury, said: "The film was fantastic. It was very moving in parts and very funny as well."

Her husband Nick, 57, said: "It took me back to my childhood. I was brought up in Dudley but left when I was 18. I've always followed Lenny – I used to know him."

Fiona Reddick, 58, travelled to the screening from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk with her husband Peter. She said: "I thought it was very insightful. It was great just to see how things developed in this part of the world and brilliant to see he's doing something to promote this area."

Mr Reddick said: "It was brilliant. For someone to look at himself in the mirror and reveals the layers of his life like that was very brave.

"I thought it was wonderful and I'd love to see more of it. It's great to understand some of the background to his great success."

Stephen Tromans, 59, said: "I enjoyed it and it was nice to hear Black Country accents rather than Birmingham ones on TV which you normally do.

"I think the clothes were right for the 70s and the culture was very good as well.

"It showed off the canal and the zoo and that could help tourism in the town."

  • Danny and the Human Zoo will be on BBC1 on August 31.

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