Guardian review The Musical, August 2006

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Count Arthur Strong – The Musical
Guardian, August 2006

“Music is a wonderful means of communism. No! Communication!” For years, Steve Delaney’s senile alter ego, the “doyen of light entertainment” Count Arthur Strong, was a cult favourite. It’s a lurid portrait, brilliantly performed, of one man’s struggle with dementia, syntax and booze, made all the more tragic by the Count’s desperate need to be taken seriously. But now Arthur has his own hit Radio 4 show, and an audience who get the joke. He is celebrating with this showcase of tunes from the musical of his own showbiz life. The London Palladium beckons, he says – as long as we all help out with the funding.

It’s a livelier show than some of its predecessors, in which Delaney pushed the painfulness of the joke to dadaist lengths. Here, relief comes in the form of a sidekick, played by Terry Kilkelly: a hapless stage manager made to dress up as the Count for a trompe-l’oeil musical routine set in the Count’s changing room. It doesn’t go well: “I’m supposed to be looking at myself in the mirror,” rages Arthur, “not bloody Boris Karloff.”

But the highlights are the glimpses of Arthur’s musical: it made me eager to see the finished article. He adopts a hilarious transatlantic twang as the infant version of himself, dispatched to foster parents in Doncaster after the death of his mother. (“If you ever need me,” says mum, “just sing a song about me after the interval.”) But Arthur has been written off as too old in a recent review, and can’t get the thought of plastic surgery out of his mind. “Get yourself a microscope, you won’t find a trace,” he sings, in an improbable closing rap number, “of anybody’s buttocks sitting on my face.” The West End won’t know what’s hit it.

Brian Logan





 


 

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