Live Review: Chortle 2022

Count Arthur Strong: And This Is Me!
Review of the old duffer’s latest tour

Review date: 8 Mar 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Square Theatre

Count Arthur Strong is leaving behind his ‘meticulously researched’ lectures of old. No more talks on astronomy or Ancient Egypt, instead the befuddled old duffer is talking about ‘me and the man behind myself – who is also me’.

But if you think this might be a subject the superannuated entertainer might actually know something about, you clearly haven’t seen a Count Arthur show before. If you have, the parade of tuneless song-and-dance numbers, muddled ventriloquism, hilarious malapropisms and rambling digressions will be very familiar. But also just the sort of daft, variety-hall shenanigans that prove a delightful tonic.

Coming off worse in his grapples with the language suggest a brain bordering on dementia. But the Count’s woeful self-assurance – as misplaced as it is optimistic – and embittered anger, flimsily hidden by the thinnest sheen of showbiz bonhomie, make it OK to laugh at his myriad shortcomings. And as if to remind us it’s all a silly act, creator Steve Delaney has his alter-ego faultlessly reel off the list of complex chemicals that go into a Toilet Duck. Remembering the phrase ‘from the bottom of my heart’ is more of a challenge.

But the mangled logic is, in fact, the Count’s superpower. If comedy is all about surprise, what could be more surprising than the non-sequiturs he barks out in frustration? No one can possibly predict the way the glitchy OS of his mind works.

The perpetual oddness of what passes as his thought process leads him to some marvellously silly lines, made all the funnier by the circuitous logic it takes him to get there and his constant fight to keep the show vaguely on track.

Even though he is surrounded by no fewer than nine images of his own face, Arthur frequently strays far from the topic in hand, considering the wives of ‘Henry VIII I am’; giving an extract from a musical he wrote to rival Hamilton, even though he doesn’t know what that is; paying tribute to the French in a couple of sketches, one as Napoleon, one as a stripy-jumpered, beret-wearing cliché; and treating us to his unique renditions of some Elvis numbers.

And that’s just scratching the surface of far too many ludicrous moments to mention, with Arthur’s preposterous performance underpinned with a rigid physicality, an accent straining too hard to perfect the received pronunciation of the Queen’s English, and a fine comic timing. It all peaks with his ventriloquism act in which his puppet becomes his sidekick, Psychic Charlie. Any conversations with the Other Side are soon forgotten, however, as Arthur struggles to delineate between himself and the doll, and is soon overpowered by its non-existent mind.

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