Live Review: Count Arthur Strong, Winter Gardens, Margate

One of the heated debates on social media is whether Count Arthur Strong has transferred successfully from radio to television. There is a school of thought that somehow the dotty creation of Steve Delaney works better without pictures. I’m not so sure myself. One thing I am sure of though is that he certainly works brilliantly on the live stage.

I missed the Count’s London Palladium show a few weeks back but managed to catch it as his UK tour reached its final furlong in Margate. As lovely as it would have been to see the West End show, there was an added bonus seeing this washed up – or is it wannabe? I'm never quite sure – showbiz dreamer playing a seaside venue. It might have been even better somehow if it was out of season and cold, but you can’t have everything.

The concept for the show is that the Count putting on his version of Rodgers and Hammersmith’s (sic) The Sound of Music. but in his efforts to get the show on the road he is constantly waylaid and distracted. It doesn’t help the smooth running of affairs of course, that he is prone to partaking of a little medicinal Lucozade onstage that might just be a bit stronger than a sugary energy drink.

The beauty is in the performance. The Count doesn’t just mangle his words (“deep vein tombola” anyone?) he mangles his whole body, contorting his face and limbs as he struggles to communicate with his two sidekicks, Terry Kilkelly as stressed out assistant Malcom de Tinsell and Dave Plimmer, who plays Eggy in the TV series. It was interesting to note that Plimmer got a big cheer when he came on – there were clearly a lot of fans of the TV show in the audience.

But this is very much Strong's show, whether attempting to croon Bill Withers’ Lovely Day, struggling with not one but two dummies in a ventriloquism section, or virtually combusting wile attempting to explain what a choc ice is.

It’s a marvellous performance from Delaney. I think the only other person who combines old school charm with a knowing alternative comedy sensibility is Harry Hill. Although I’m not sure if Delaney is that bothered about appealing to the cool kids. There’s a beautiful bit of business with hats that is pure unashamed variety. OK, maybe Tim Vine and John Shuttleworth come close too I suppose. But the Count feels like such a consummate comedy character - in fact he doesn’t really need his supporting players, all eyes are on him. 

Oh, and eventually he does do a bit of the Sound of Mastic, erm, Mucus, erm, Music. But that is incidental. Although you do get to see Count Arthur Strong in a pair of lederhosen. And you don't get that treat on radio. 

Get all your Count Arthur Strong news here.

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