Part one of Count Arthur Strong’s farewell tour is most likely part one of many! Self-appointed doyen of light entertainment, raconteur and bon vivre, the Count is once again on the road spouting his usual tripe to anyone that will witness his ramblings. And they do! A sold out show on, most likely, a sold out tour is evidence enough of the popularity of the inner workings of Count Arthur’s befuddled brain.
After several series on Radio 4, Steve Delaney’s alter ego crossed the airwaves to prime time TV sitcom before failing to be recommissioned. The Count’s true home, however, is onstage. Delaney has been performing his creation for over thirty years, embodying every sinew of Arthur’s physicality. Previous tours have included subject matters that, of course, the Count rarely strays towards but in And It’s Goodnight From Him, he is left to free wheel through a stream of consciousness that goes everywhere but the point of what he is attempting to convey! It is this muddle that is the foundation of Delaney’s comedy.
Watching The Count stumble and stutter through stories in a quagmire of confusion is exhausting to watch. Delaney’s physical and verbal dexterity is so seemingly ramshackle yet performed with pin point accuracy. Every word slip is honed for maximum gag potential. To watch The Count is a masterclass of spoonerisms and malapropisms. He can hardly get through a sentence without slipping on a banana skin, each time sending him down another wrong path, side-tracked to the hilt until he no longer knows what he is talking about – never mind the audience desperately trying to keep up!
After watching great comedians it is often the case that it is very difficult to remember much about the show and that is very much the case. However, this is because there is very little in the show itself. Delaney treats us to two hours of mostly nonsense. The Count’s nonsense is very much that – no sense. We go round in circles as he attempts to tell us about his grudge with the new vicar or his journey through the kings of England. To watch The Count is not a passive experience. After several attempts of trying to link non sequitur to non sequitur it is sometimes easier to give up and simply let the madness in.
With no structure at all to keep the thoughts together the first half feels a little too loose. And with the second half beginning with, inexplicably, a performance of Firestarter by The Prodigy you would be forgiven into thinking we are in for more of the same. However, Count Arthur’s retelling of the story of The Beatles with just about every detail incorrect is inspired. Delaney invokes waves of laughter as John, Paul, John and Ringo’s names become more and more ridiculous and Brian Epstein somehow seemingly morphing into Albert Einstein! The end of the show becomes so surreal that it is impossible to fathom how The Count, and us, get there. Yet we do. And, as ever, it is joyously silly.
Delaney has delivered another show that will keep his faithful audience amused until he comes around again. Unstructured though it may be, there is enough gold in his wordplay to keep you giggling throughout.
Reviewed on 9th February 2024.