REVIEW: Oliver Reed: Wild Thing The Brewery Theatre 9/10
OLIVER Reed died of a heart attack after a lengthy drinking session during a break in filming for the movie Gladiator. It was perhaps a fitting end for Reed, as over the course of his life he had acquired a legendary reputation for being a phenomenal drinker, whom the press had dubbed a "hellraiser" for the exploits that found his name and face splashed across their front pages.
Away from the spotlight, however, he was also fiercely intelligent and darkly humorous, with a large appetite for life. What Oliver Reed: Wild Thing does so well is to marry his public persona with that of his private one, demonstrating his enormous talent and his capacity for self-destruction.
Wild Thing is set at the Maltese Pub where he would later have his heart attack and finds Reed in a gregarious mood, coming on stage in a gorilla costume and dancing to Wild Thing by the Trogs. It's something he later explains with pride and perhaps a touch of bitterness: Reed is the gorilla compared to the posh school boys who share his profession, one who's more than willing to fight, laugh and drink with anyone who wants his company.
The audience are then treated to all of those things as Reed takes us through a whirlwind tour of his life, from his childhood as a schoolyard bully to the movie star with smouldering charisma and finally to his drunken appearances on television. It's a lot of material to cover in a show that lasts just over an hour and there's the feeling that there's more to learn than Wild Thing shows us, but what it does present is outstanding.
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Rob Crouch, who stars as Reed, is about 20 years too young to play the actor at the end of his life, but is otherwise magnificent, not only nailing his look and mannerisms, but crucially capturing the qualities that made Reed so fascinating. It's a performance that Oliver Reed would've been proud to give.
Oliver Reed: Wild Thing plays at the Brewery Theatre until February 2 and is a brilliant, witty, perhaps overly condensed show, that is nevertheless highly recommended.