On a recent Sunday evening, I went off to see Count Arthur strong at the Arts Theatre by Leicester Square, with Robin. Rob called in the afternoon to ask if wanted to go. He asked if I had heard of Count Arthur Strong – and I had to laugh because I can’t believe we’ve gone this long without discussing him in the past.
I’ve not actually listened to the radio shows, for some reason – I think Radio 4’s comedy output was supremely patchy around then so I didn’t want to risk being appalled. Then after a boozy man-chat with James I was shown the DVD of Forgotten Egypt which had me howling.
Then a few of us went to see his live show Count Arthur Strong – The Musical last year, and it’s that we’re seeing again tonight.
I’m pleased to say that my brother likes The Count after being recommended by me to listen and watch. That pays him back for putting me onto Vic Reeves in 1989. I liked the earlier Vic Reeves stuff, but after a while it succumbed to catchphrases and students. It was hanging around with The Wonder Stuff that did it. Bastards.
(Disclaimer: On The Ropes is one of my favourite songs, but it came after all that plaid-suited nonsense. It all got a bit Levellers for a bit – dodgy.)
Anyway, I wondered if The Count was going to have changed the show. Last time it had a couple of very dated parts, such as the Eminem chainsaw and hip-hop tracksuit. (“I don’t know why they’ve given me a hedge trimmer!”). This show was originally performed a while back in Edinburgh, in fact the year that Robin plated there, which is where he found out about him.
As it turned out, he hadn’t changed it at all. I didn’t actually cry with laughter this time, but it was still great. Not sure about introducing extra characters though – they clutter the stage and distract from Arthur himself. He does well with a foil, but yelling at people offstage usually does the trick. I can see the use of more minor characters can help as a way of exploring the comic possibilities of a situation, but end up diluting the comedy in the end. The last straw will be when Arthur and pals get stuck in a caravan on a rainy holiday, or go to the South of France together.
I wonder if The Count will succumb to catchphrases too? I hope not, and to be honest I don’t see how he can. Most of his comedy is based around vocal mannerism as opposed to the actual words. The sudden shouts as he attempts to get phrases out, the distortions caused by an aged drink soused palette, and so on. I also like the cheapness of the character. He is a skinflint, and feels he is always being let down by the management of the venue, and by his entourage. But the fact he can just wander on stage in a battered tuxedo, means the show itself is cheap. And I like that, with my amdram background.
Very nice to spend Sunday evening though. After the show Rob and I wandered around to find some food, and ended up being the only customers in that Thai place next door to Ronnie Scotts.