Going strong with the Count

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Count Arthur Strong’s Command(o) Performance - Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Blackpool has played host to countless comedians down the years, but surely not one quite as bizarre, left-field or outrageous and contagiously funny as Count Arthur Strong.

Actor Steve Delaney’s amazing creation is impossible to define or pigeon-hole – you would do your brain in, as Count Arthur so often did on stage at the Grand , to try and explain. He has earned cult status first on Radio 1, then at the Edinburgh Fringe and latterly via his Sony Award winning series on Radio 4.

If you didn’t know already Count Arthur is a fading music hall artist who is now reduced to appearing on his own Doncaster Cable TV cookery programme, though he believes he is a big star and keen on relating reminiscences about his showbusiness pals and his past.

He is a walking, shouting, shambolic wreck of a man, but that is part of Delaney’s genius – Count Arthur is an old curmudgeon with few saving graces and even fewer social skills.

Most of the time it is uproariously funny, but it teeters on the edge on occasions. It is tricky territory getting laughs out of a character who suddenly erupts into Tourette Syndrome rage and angst when his memory fades him or he gets a name hopelessly wrong.

Count Arthur evokes huge belly-laughs throughout his superb, 90 minute set-piece – and therein lies the trick, for if he ever tried to play it for sympathy , it would fail completely and he would just be a sad, old man. Enjoy it for what it is – a comic master-class that only comes round once in a while.