To say that it went downhill as soon as the curtain rose would suggest that Count Arthur Strong’s latest malapropistic misremembrances (try saying that after a healthy slug of his “Scottish Lucozade”) is a dud. However, nothing could be further from Babe Ruth. I mean, the truth. For the opening sequence during which Steve Delaney as The Count (voiced “o”), Terry Kilkelly as the put-upon Malcolm and later the star of rage and scream Renee and Dave Plimmer as Uncle Alan who is not an Uncle is terrific.
With the curtain raised but a yard, all we see are three pairs of legs (or six one-legged men) having an argument (or as The Count would describe it “a conversation at the top of their voices”). The fact that this goes on and on for several minutes without a dip in belly-aching laughter is indicative of why Delaney is such a gifted performer and writer: he takes a bizarre idea and runs with it to the point of no return and keeps going.
From an emphysemic murdering of Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” which renders him gasping for breath like a fish out of water and a ventriloquist act with the disembowelled Tiny Tut and silent-vowelled Sulky Monkey which descends into a drunken punch-up to a medley of impersonations including a delightful misquotation of Michael Caine “You were only supposed to blow Diana Dors up!” to a riotous re-enactment of songs from The Sound of Music during which he plays every character from Maria to “I’m the one in the Nazi Youth”, The Sound of Mucus is a joy for people of all ages – and none!
Having followed The Count from his humble beginnings at the Edinburgh Festival right through to his award-winning radio shows and third television series directed by Father Ted’s Graham Linehan which kicks off at 8.30pm on Friday, 19 May, I am as Annie Wilkes said of Paul Sheldon in Misery his “number one fan”.
However, putting my trilby hat and pencilled moustache to one side, it would be fair to say that the second half made up for a meandering first which was over-populated with malapropisms and soliloquies. As funny as they are, The Count works best bouncing off other characters and engaging in action. It may not reach the heights of previous stage shows, but if I was to rate The Sound of Mucus out of “an hundred”, I would use a line out of The Count’s mauling of a “Redcar and Hammersmith” classic: “I am 70 going on 80!”