Count Arthur Strong: The Sound of Mucus
Whitby Pavilion, April 5 2017
He‘s not the first Count to land in Whitby, but this time things do go a little better.
It’s a fine spring night, and the Pavilion Theatre is full.
There are two varieties of Count Arthur Strong: the version that is seen on TV, which is supported by the writing of the ever brilliant Graham Linehan, and the version that appears on radio and on stage. More people are probably familiar with the former, but it’s the latter we get tonight. This means a more stripped down version of things, with The Count himself (Steve Delaney), his hapless, long-suffering assistant and mentee, Malcolm (Terry Kilkelly, who also does a beautiful turn as Renee in the second half), as well as Alan, (Dave Pilmer, who also plays Eggy in the TV show.
This is by no means a bad thing, because the character of Count Arthur himself is a tour de force seen close up (and I was in the front row). Delaney had said that he decided to focus on Arthur because he wasn’t really that versatile an actor. If you have one character this good though, it’s not hard to understand why. Arthur is a mass of tics, non sequiturs and delusion. The real genius is to make this monster somehow quite lovable, in spite of it all, and Delaney does it.
The show isn’t overlong, with two fifty minute segments punctuated by an interval. This is not a complaint, because the laughs are pretty relentless, and are interspersed with running jokes, particularly about the restorative powers of “Lucozade”. For some, the discipline of the TV setting helps to gives shape and discipline, but I love Arthur here, where where he’s allowed to really let go. Perhaps the only complaint is that Alan and Malcolm are not given much to do, though what they do do is pretty good.
And in the end, you can’t really argue with a show that contains the line, “Malcolm, have you been sniffing nutmeg again?”
Roll on the next TV series.
(Update, November 11 2017: of course, now we know there isnt going to be another series. Boo, and furthermore, hiss.)