Review: Count Arthur Strong’s Command Performance, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, March 2011

Like a mad uncle at an ill-advised family reunion, Count Arthur Strong guarantees to astound and amuse in equal amounts. Steve Delaney’s character is a delight. He is also a nincompoop. Wonderfully deranged, oblivious to the chaos in his wake, and choking on self-importance, he is a joy to watch. It’s worth taking a moment to watch the audience during his performance; you won’t be alone in shaking your head in disbelief at how Doncaster’s finest aging thespian manoeuvres himself into corners during monologues and arguments with his long-suffering friends. Some of the material may sound familiar from his Radio 4 series, but the visual dimension is well honed and gives the Command Performance a fantastic, old-fashioned variety-show feel. Every moment of this performance is perfectly timed. There is not a wasted word or stage direction from the Count and the wonderful Malcolm, his unfortunate lackey.

This is slightly surreal and bonkers at times, but a real testimony to the years of work that Steve Delaney has put in to polishing this rough diamond. I recently read that the Count may be gracing our screens. About time too.