Live Review: The List May 2017

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Count Arthur Strong – Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow
Delightfully cack-handed, stumbling and foolish shenanigans from Steve Delaney’s wholly inhabited Count
by Jay Richardson

More than 30 years after Steve Delaney first created the doddery and delusional variety turn from Doncaster, Count Arthur Strong seems as durable as ever. Not only is he about to appear in a third series of his BBC sitcom, he’s still packing them in at the theatre. Presenting his sketchily-remembered take on The Sound of Music, this is a typically confused, scattergun production from the easily distracted septuagenarian that also features lay preaching, an account of his Biblically-inspired cooking show, a Sherlock Holmes dramatisation and cack-handed ventriloquism.
The von Trapp shenanigans are dipped in and out of before the all-singing, all-stumbling finale with veteran Count Arthur fans having a reasonable notion of what to expect. But from the moment the curtain rises, albeit only to knee-height, you know you’re in safe hands with Arthur and his put-upon assistants Malcolm (Terry Kilkelly) and Alan (Dave Plimmer), a crowd favourite whose applause the egotistical Count soaks up, oblivious that it’s not for him. Although the opportunities presented by ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ in the Holmes bit of business are too delicious to resist, there are actually fewer malapropisms this time around for Arthur’s ‘lovely plums in my big mouth’, while clear highlights are the physical comedy and him berating those assistants.
Alongside the obligatory discovery of the coat-hanger still in his suit, the vent act is sublime foolishness, as he wields an immobile Little King Tut with one arm and Sulky Monkey on the other, the latter intermittently silent, then viciously attacking him. Prior to that, there’s a wonderfully wheezy tilt at Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’.
Delaney inhabits his creation so fully and realises his potential so expertly, that virtually every second line is a gag and the slapstick is classically accomplished. Despite the lederhosen and nuns’ habits, the ending doesn’t quite fulfil the promise of its set-up, with the incoherence ultimately muffling the laughs rather than inspiring them.




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