Steve Delaney has collaborated with Father Ted and The IT Crowd creator, Graham Linehan, to bring his alter-ego Count Arthur Strong (star of the award-winning Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show!) to the world of television sitcom.
This isn’t Arthur’s first foray into fame, however, for he was once a much-loved and highly-regarded regular on the variety circuit. If Arthur is to be believed, he was – and is still – very famous, and his next big showbiz opportunity is only a phone call away. Of course, everyone else knows him to be a deluded former star who now stumbles through life, getting into embarrassing situations as a result of his selective memory loss and unfortunately frequent malapropisms.
Ignorance seems to be bliss for Arthur as he appears wholly unaware of the chaos that ensues whenever he is present.
About to enter into the world of the always eager-to-impress Arthur is Michael Baker, who has been asked to write the biography of his recently deceased father, and former performing partner of Arthur, Max Baker. What starts out as research for his book turns out to be a complete lifestyle change for Michael as he is unwillingly sucked into the world of Count Arthur Strong.
FROM BRAINCHILD TO CULT FIGURE
Co-writer and star of the show, Steve Delaney, came up with the character who would eventually turn into Count Arthur Strong when he studied at Central, in London. After a few years of mentally developing Arthur, he finally performed as him at the Edinburgh Festival in 1997. The character soon became a cult figure and, sixteen years and numerous live shows and radio series later, the faded variety star can boast fans like Steve Coogan, Billy Connolly and even Sir Paul McCartney and is finally getting his first TV outing, in which he will share the screen with guests such as Lindsay Duncan and the legendary Barry Cryer,
Comedy stalwart Graham Linehan is also on-board as both co-writer and director. He claims that he was ‘blown away’ by Count Arthur Strong’s Forgotten Egypt (one of Delaney’s most successful Edinburgh shows) and loved adapting the character and situations from the radio show to TV. He says, ‘[The TV series] had to be more rounded, more realistic, and we had to make some definite decisions about how Arthur would fit into the real world. This meant moving away from some of the larger-than-life relationships created in the radio show and trying to ground it a bit more.’
Having watched the trailer for Count Arthur Strong and clips from the character’s live shows, I know that Steve Delaney is a great comic, and the fact that Graham Linehan has written and directed the series makes me even more sure that it will be a success.
Throughout the six episodes we will also meet the people who are involved in Arthur’s life. As well as Michael (played by Rory Kinnear, of James Bond fame), we will see Bulent and Sinem, a brother and sister team from Turkey who run the cafe – Arthur’s favourite haunt and very much at the heart of the series. They both have conflicting personalities: Bulent (Chris Ryman, Casualty) is bad- tempered and pessimistic while his sister (Zahra Ahmadi, EastEnders) is a tough cookie with a sharp mind, lighting up the cafe and forever standing up to her brother.
The cafe’s regulars comprise the remainder of the principle cast: we have the eccentric names of John the Watch (pictured), Katya and Eggy. John is something of an enigma – he is seldom seen without his shades and people know very little about him. He is close to Arthur, but not as close as the soup-supping Katya, who is his biggest fan and often dubbed his ‘Polish Princess’. Finally, there’s Eggy – a reserved, philosophical egg fanatic (for reasons known only to himself). He has a strong distrust of reality and prefers to sit in the cafe with only his conspiracy theories (and eggs, of course) for company.
So there we are: that is a peek into the weird and wonderful world of Count Arthur Strong. Prepare for six weeks of madness and misunderstandings from no one’s favourite one man variety vehicle.
Count Arthur Strong begins Monday 8th July at 8:30pm on BBC2
Images courtesy of BBC. © Fremantle Productions