Brighton 2010 Argus article

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Theatre Royal Brighton

1st February 2010

By Duncan Hall

When Eric Sykes wrote his autobiography, he called it If I Don’t Write It Nobody Else Will.

Steve Delaney’s comic creation Count Arthur Strong has taken a similar approach with his new show The Man Behind The Smile – which, in Steve’s words “is a personal tribute to Arthur, by Arthur.”

With 32 BBC Radio Four episodes under his belt – and six more on the way – plus a series of successful theatre tours up and down the country, life is good for Steve’s alter ego, which he first cooked up for a drama school exercise.

“We had to work for a term on circuses,” he says. “I was looking for something that wasn’t going to involve walking on a tightrope.

“The Count was a strongman, which was where that part of his name came from. The rest was from an off-licence flyer I saw in Wood Green featuring the name Arthur Strong.”

Arthur was set aside for a few years while Steve concentrated on his acting career, until an old friend from theatre school encouraged him to dust the character off.

Steve start performing him again, first of all in small London venues and then at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“It was extremely liberating, packing up acting and doing something I had created 100% by myself,” says Steve. “Nobody could tell me I was interpreting him wrongly.”

He puts the further success of the character down to the radio show, which he developed with the help of Komedia Entertainment’s Richard Daws.

He still maintains that link with Brighton by recording some episodes of the show at the Komedia in Gardner Street.

“When I first started out, I knew Arthur was the sort of character quite a few people wouldn’t like,” he admits.

“Performing live it takes a long time, particularly when you are a character comedian, to sift through and get an audience that has turned out to see you, as opposed to an audience that has heard of you but doesn’t know if they like you.”

He is not afraid of the Marmite tag that comes with his comedy though.

“If the criteria has to be that you appeal to everyone, then you’re backing a loser,” he says. “There’s nothing like having vociferous fans. Some of the audience know more of the back story than I do.”

Arthur’s long history has included time as an Egyp- tologist, and even getting down to the last two to play James Bond – stymied by a typically Arthurian failure to deliver the famous catchphrase.

“I don’t feel constricted by Arthur, there is a great degree of freedom,” says Steve.

“There’s no filter system with Arthur. He speaks his mind when he really shouldn’t. A lot of the time he doesn’t know if he’s saying something or thinking it.”

And there is more to come as Steve is currently working on a television project for Talkback with former Father Ted and Black Books writer Graham Linehan, and the League Of Gentleman’s Jeremy Dyson.

“It’s moving along very slowly but we’re getting closer and closer,” he says.

“I always maintained that, when I got to the point where it was hard work and I was having to sit down and really think of something for Arthur, it would be time to call it a day. That day has yet to arise.”



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