If you should see Count Arthur Strong live on stage – and you definitely should – Stockport Plaza is the perfect place to do so.

OK, so the sound system might not quite be up to the standards of a fancy modern venue, but what it has instead is charm and character. Lovingly restored to its 30s Art Deco majesty, it’s like a fever-dream trip back to a lost golden age, and so too is the Count Arthur experience. As the Plaza’s mighty Compton Organ trills its last tune and descends beneath the stage, you’re all set.

His current live show is titled And It’s Goodnight from Him!. To be fair, that’s more of a classic showbiz reference than a promise. As the tagline clarifies, this is ‘Part One of Count Arthur’s Farewell Tour of the World’, with no specific limit on how many parts there might be. In fact, this is business as usual for the Count, arguably to a fault.

In the unlikely event you’ve come this far without encountering the character, he is an ageing show business footnote from Doncaster with a short fuse, part puddled pensioner, part petulant child, created and performed by Steve Delaney. It’s important to note here that the show’s very existence is a huge testament to Delaney’s skill and appeal. Count Arthur had a TV sitcom incarnation, as well as a separate radio sitcom, neither of which is still running, but nevertheless he can pull in audiences for a national tour of 60+ dates.

What’s more, Delaney carries the entire show, appearing alone on stage throughout. Again, various different approaches have been taken to this before now, with some previous touring shows bringing in other characters or interpolating pre-filmed material. Wisely, though, over the years Delaney has zoned in on what really works – namely a pared-down approach, just him playing the Count with as few whistles and bells as possible.

So, does this formula still work? Absolutely. Delaney is a fine comic performer and the Count – so easily confused, mostly by himself – remains a brilliant creation. The warm delights of the character remain undimmed as, this time out, Arthur portrays a Shakespearean monarch, revives his celebrated Memory Man act and even essays a couple of 90s/00s dance-pop bangers to rib-tickling effect.

If there’s a failing, it’s that the whole thing is now at risk of becoming formulaic. The stage set is the same as it was in his 2022 show And This Is Me!, and essentially a lot of the ingredients are interchangeable. A climactic puppet-based tribute to the Beatles – sorry, the Geatles – is a treat, but it’s not a million miles from the climactic Elvis tribute from that previous show.

Other recent live shows have had a theme to spin off from, even if it they’re deviated from fairly quickly. Here, the issue of Arthur’s (not actual) retirement is forgotten after some (admittedly corking) Frank Sinatra gags. The whole point is that this is a rambling enterprise, but at times this feels just the wrong side of that and could use something slightly more substantial to pin it together.

In that respect, the fact that another touring show is already on the horizon – Count Arthur’s festive retelling of A Christmas Carol – might actually be just the ticket. A new direction could prove to be a shot in the arm. For now, on balance this might have fewer moments of hilarity than Count Arthur at his absolute best, but audiences are still likely to be enveloped in rolling gales of happy laughter and go home with a spring in their step.

By Andy Murray

Main image: Count Arthur Strong. Image courtesy of Count Arthur Strong/Steve Delaney.


Count Arthur Strong: And It’s Goodnight from Him! is on tour: https://countarthurstrong.com/events/