Review: Telegraph

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Edinburgh reports: a lesson in lunacy

Mark Monahan reviews Count Arthur Strong at the Gilded Balloon

by Mark Monahan

18 Aug 2003

Not even a poorly sited pillar in front of my seat could prevent Count Arthur Strong from being one of the funniest spectacles I’ve witnessed in ages. The creation of thirtysomething Steve Delaney (who also plays him, without once letting his guard down), this meticulously honed character is a doddery, deluded thesp who runs an acting school in Doncaster, and seems to be suffering from Alzheimer’s and Tourette’s.

The twitching, besuited buffoon embarks on a grandiose lecture, The Greatest Story Ever Told, a biblical odyssey that descends into in an excruciating spiral of confused ideas and demented syntax.

Having proclaimed how God created Adam and Eve “from some spare ribs”, mentioned the evolutionary genius Charles Dance and had a flaming row with his Dictaphone, he turns his fractured attention to three bottles of wine, to show us how sophisticated his “Pontius palate” has become. Although you half know what’s coming, it’s still priceless. “Ooh, I like that one!” “Ooh, that one as well!” “Ooh, that’s interesting!” He then drinks some more, “to see if I concur with what it is I am saying”.

With any hope of imparting any knowledge looking thin, Count Arthur reminisces about his bungled audition for the role of James Bond (“My name is James. James Bond”), somehow turns an account of the feeding of the five thousand into a recipe for “lamb of God”, and then returns to the wine.

By this point, his audience a distant memory, he stands for five minutes with his back to us, beating up a plastic cherub, necking the rest of the three wine bottles and extending the bounds of oenology with the declaration, “Every one’s a winner!” He gets even worse, but exactly how, you’ll need to find out for yourself. Pure comic genius.



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