Count Arthur Strong ...And It's Goodnight From Him | Review of the befuddled thespian's farewell tour (pt1)
review star review star review star review star review blank star

Count Arthur Strong ...And It's Goodnight From Him

Review of the befuddled thespian's farewell tour (pt1)

We’re going to see a lot of befuddled old men muddling their words in this US Presidential election year – so thank heavens for confusion that’s funny, rather than terrifying.

After 53 radio episodes, two decades of tours and three seasons of a TV show, Count Arthur Strong is embarking on his valedictory tour. However, he’s not ready to hang up his trademark trilby quite yet. The show may be called …And It's Goodnight From Him but it is very much the first of many legs of a Frank Sinatra-style farewell which – like one of the Count’s meandering sentences – has no actual end in sight.

Not that our star can quite remember Ol Blue Eyes’ name, or nickname. What drives the laughs in any Count Arthur shows, including this one, is the way the superannuated thespian grasps for the right words, and the hilariously mangled alternatives his confused mind temporarily settles upon. He is the maestro of the malapropism, the sultan of the spoonerism.

This is delightfully funny in itself, but the comedy is heightened by how frustrated he gets when  the mots justes elude him.

He’s relentless in his determination to see a train of thought to its destination, however often it’s derailed or diverted, and the barely-disguised anger at all those obstacles quickly mutates into embittered asides about the audience, as he begrudges having to entertain the great unwashed. But then will come a cloyingly bit of showbiz ‘sincerity’ to try to ingratiate himself, which is not fooling anyone.

That he thinks himself way above all this, despite being woefully ill-equipped for the job offers another strand for laughs. He has a bulletproof, misplaced confidence in his talents, and a gloriously unselfaware attitude to his failings.

As Count Arthurs supposedly bids farewell to his stage career, this tour offers a reminder of his many talents, from the ill-judged ‘memory man’ act to playing the Steptoe & Son theme tune on his banjo. Then there’s Shakespearean acting, channelling Sir Laurence Olivier in a rendition of Richard III that might have held more dramatic heft had he got the right king...

The piece de resistance, though, is a history of The Beatles – the Fab Four or Five (even that detail eludes him) who met on the top deck of a Liverpool bus and broke up at the peak of their fame with rooftop concert in London, a climactic scene marvellously recreated here on a shoestring, with a cast of just one.

For all the daft stupidity, the execution and writing are finely engineered. There’s precision to the chaos with subtle flourishes at every turn – while Count Arthur is a much more layered character that the top-level jokes would suggest.  Steve Delaney’s been performing him long enough now or the complex performance to come naturally, too.

Beyond the wordplay are added rewards when you figure out the back story of whatever anecdote he’s trying to piece together the fragmented snapshots that he can barely recall.

The physicality is important too. His puppet Ringo has a comic timing worthy of the real drummer, while his attempts to connect with the youth with some brilliantly deranged dancing to some modern(ish) hits.

It’s all joyously silly, with no attempt to mean anything or convey any deep message or personal insight. Which is a good job, as Count Arthur would surely stuff that up royally.

Count Arthur Strong ...And It's Goodnight From Him is on tour until June. And in November and December he is touring with his version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. All Count ​Arthur Strong’s tour dates.

Review date: 21 Feb 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Winchester Theatre Royal

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.