sat 29/02/2020

Count Arthur Strong, Leeds City Varieties review - stargazing and mangled syntax | reviews, news & interviews

Count Arthur Strong, Leeds City Varieties review - stargazing and mangled syntax

Count Arthur Strong, Leeds City Varieties review - stargazing and mangled syntax

Steve Delaney's meticulously created character

Count Arthur Strong is a variety performer of the old school

Count Arthur Strong, the character created by Steve Delaney, started life in the late 1990s and  became a cult figure at the Edinburgh Fringe over several years. Radio shows and three series of a television sitcom (written with Graham Linehan) followed and now he’s taking the character back on the road with Is There Anybody Out There?

The Count is a meticulously constructed character, a cantankerous, pedantic, mostly out of work former variety artist whose world view - of his talent, his intellect - is gloriously wide of the mark, and whose hopelessly confused syntax and malapropisms are a joy to behold.

The joke is added to by the Count’s growing confusion as he tries but fails to get even the simplest sentence out - it’s like his brain is constantly in a weird auto-incorrect mode that offers any number of alternatives to the actual word he’s searching for.

This two-act show is ostensibly about the Count’s love of stargazing, and the first half contains his hilariously ill-informed play about Galileo, whom he confuses with everyone from Michelangelo to Gary Barlow, and which involves him trying to explain how to construct a telescope from spectacles and rolls of cardboard. 

Later, the Count tells us of his admiration for Sir Isaac Newton, “who invented gravy”, and he treats us to his rendition of David Bowie’s “Starman”, or “David Essex’s Start the Car”, as he has it. It’s particularly memorable, but there’s an even better musical finale to the show.

Along the way, we learn that the Count is banned from his local Oxfam shop for undisclosed reasons, that he’s not sexist or homophobic - and is in fact a great supporter of the “BLT movement”. He also nurses a great dislike of Professor Brian Cox, for reasons that will become apparent.

After a first half that drags in parts, the second picks up in pace, as the Count mostly dispenses with the props and delivers a lengthy set piece prompted by him remarking how many chocolate bars there are with astrological names. What follows is a comic tour de force, a weird form of word association that only the Count’s dodgy synapses could come up with.

As ever, the pleasure of watching the Count is witnessing the old duffer’s increasing frustration, and  it’s a slow build in some sections of the show. But the gags keep on coming, and this is writing and performing of a strikingly high standard.

What follows is a weird form of word association that only the Count’s dodgy synapses could come up with


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I do appreciate your 4star review of my show but I'm disappointed to see so many spoilers in there. I'm sure it's possible to write about a show without giving half the punchlines away.

Big fan of Count Arthur and always love his TV, radio and live work. Went to see the show in New Brighton last Saturday with two of my boys. A great show and the audience loved it. I'd made the mistake of reading this review first and I fully agree with the comment above, you can easily review the show without giving away any of the punchlines yet you've given away many of the strongest. Please edit your review. This is character comedy at its finest, let the audience hear the punchlines live and revel in them there.

Instead of complaining about spoilers, read the reviews after you've seen the show. Leave the the critics to do their job.

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