Independent Review 2008

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Count Arthur Strong: The Man Behind The Smile, Assembly@George Street, Edinburgh

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Thursday 07 August 2008

I have mixed feelings about plundering a bygone era of light entertainment for comic material, and yet two Fringe performers do this immensely well, Justin Edwards as the alcoholic children’s entertainer, Jeremy Lion and Steve Delaney as another sozzled old has-been, Count Arthur Strong. There’s a bittersweet feeling to watching these fictional, and very similar, performers of yesteryear variety bumble their way through their shows. I would liken the experience to that of watching Paul Whitehouse’s Rowley Birkin QC in The Fast Show, for a more widely-known reference point, but with more jokes and levity.

The show is based on a retrospective on Count Arthur’s career featuring footage of him edited into shows such as Ask The Family and Dixon of Dock Green, where he can be seen face-pulling and making inappropriate comments. These snippets are well put together and I would have forgiven him for showing more though I normally abhor too much VT in a live show.

Count Arthur’s ramblings, meanwhile, are full of paradoxically dextrous speech trips: “what a lovely show, I mean what a lovely audience … showbusiness is like no business I know … anything about.” Such silly syntax puts me in mind of Les Dawson playing the piano badly, it takes skill.



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