Live Review: The Times Feb 2015

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Count Arthur Strong,
Norwich Playhouse

He’s an “old-fashioned comic” is how some describe Count Arthur Strong. Well he might be an  old-fashioned in terms of the nature of his act. Steve Delaney’s character creation is an ageing variety star who is as suited to the modern world as gravy is to ice cream (even when he attempts
“topical” humour, he mispronounces it “tropical”). He’s certainly old-fashioned in that he’s been around for a while, with his radio show circulating since 2005. However, he’s certainly not old-hat in terms of how fresh the laughs feel in his live show Somebody Up There Licks Me.

In fact Count Arthur, wilfully stumbling over his words and movements, is just as adept at keeping his audience hanging as alternative comedy’s master-tease Stewart Lee. In Count Arthus’s supposedly bumbling monologues, Delaney terrifically nails the nonsense of subjects, including religion in a retelling of the Adam and Eve story that could easily go viral online as a short film. His version of the story of the Beatles is an utterly iconoclastic feast and enough to tickle viewers
with the most oddball sensibilities.

Count Arthur’s BBC One sitcom is deservedly flying high, but what Delaney creates on stage is significantly punchier. Freed from the need for a TV story arc and with a much simpler set-up – chairs, screen, a naff keyboard and his occasional sidekicks Allan and Malcolm – what results is a relentless blast of comic surprises, verbal and physical. Delaney making a list of nut varieties turns into an eruption of punchlines. He mines the minutiae of life into something significantly more entertaining, like an Alan Partridge for all generations. And if that’s old-fashioned, then it’s a label to be celebrated.

Alex Hardy




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