Live Review: Manchester Evening News Feb 2015

Review: Count Arthur Strong @ The Lowry
15 February 2015 by AndyCronshaw

Andy Cronshaw was at The Lowry to watch the befuddled and deluded Count Arthur Strong


Count Arthur Strong

I found myself at the Lowry Quays theatre night thanks to an oversight which would have been typical of Steve Delaney’s great creation: the befuddled and deluded Count Arthur Strong.

Eyeing up the very enticing prospect of reviewing the show, I’d neglected to remember the crucial significance of the date February 14.

Perfect, I thought for me and my dad, who is also a big fan.

Consequently I remain deeply overdrawn in doghouse red for my misdemeanours.

But if there was a show worth getting in trouble over, this was it.

Many fans of the original BBC Radio 4 incarnation, which first thrust the character into wider recognition, may have been disappointed with later migrations to stage and TV.

Although the radio shows have flimsy farcical pot lines, their humour is firmly lodged in the character of Count Arthur and his stream, no avalanche, of spoonerisms, malapropisms and surreal tangential musings.

And that is largely what we got in spades with this new stage show. In fact, plenty of dialogue between Arthur and straight man Malcolm, played by Terry Kilkelly took part in the wings, leaving the stage empty for periods.

The overall format was similar to the Memoirs of Count Arthur Strong: Through It All I’ve Always Laughed, available on CD, with some ‘tributes’ thrown in.

We were informed that the original show, mistakenly entitled, Somebody Up There Licks Me, is the subject of a legal injunction and Arthur would have to perform a show he’d written the night before.

The writing is simply magnificent, and classic Count Strong.

There was a terrific mangling of ‘drastic’ and ‘gastric’ which led to ‘adding insulin to injury’.

‘Stop trying to stage manage everything!’ he told stage manager Malcolm.

His tribute to Rex Harris(on) was interrupted by an account of Arthur’s skills as a children’s entertainer: a ‘balloon strangler’ whose piéce de résistance is ‘a giraffe with no discernible neck’.

He also choose to put his abilities as a ventriloquist to the fore with the help of ‘sulky monkey’, a misbehaving orang-u-tan from deepest Borneo, who chose not to speak.

The set-piece songs were performed with great Variety show style recalling the brilliance of Laurel and Hardy, and Morecombe and Wise.

There was a duet, Something Stupid, with a cleaning lady, Malcolm in drag, and a Beatles tribute including a version of Yesterday in which Count Arthur recalled what ingredients had made up his full English breakfast the previous day.

There was also a piece about nuts which rivals the great nut monologue from Best in Show.

And as my dad commented at the end, he never needed to resort to toilet humor or swearing to maintain one and half hours of pure hilarity–8650021

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