Oliver Reed: Wild Thing – theatre review
Oliver Reed: Wild Thing
A New Play by: Mike Davis and Rob Crouch
Performed by: Rob Crouch
Directed by: Kate Bannister
6th February 2013
The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
Review: Adam Webbow
Ollie Reed play is punk theatre with a passion…
Liverpool’s grand Epstein Theatre was transformed into an intimate pub in Malta last night as Rob Crouch held court as Oliver Reed in “Wild Thing”, a play about the hell-raising actor’s life, co-written with Mike Davis.
Reed wished he could’ve visited every pub in the world. It was the environment in which he felt most at home, so it’s fitting that this is where we spend time with him. But this is his last pub, his local during the filming of “Gladiator”. When time is called, it will be his last shout.
Crouch storms in and swiftly takes over. He assigns an audience member the position of landlord and passes him a crate of beer and a bottle-opener, to pass around to any willing takers. We realise that we’re not just the audience; we’re Ollie’s friends in the pub with him, enjoying his 70-minute monologue as his mind wanders drunkenly through his life. As Reed, Rob Crouch drinks throughout, cracking the caps off beer bottles and downing them with relish. His stunning portrayal is bombastic, defensive, honest and unafraid to show the more pathetic aspects of the life of a drunk.
With changes of jackets, we see Reed the schoolboy, Reed the rebel youth. He becomes the wolf man, engages in a one-man swordfight as a musketeer. Punch-ups, celebrity excesses, the infamous chat-show appearances on Johnny Carson and Aspel, we travel through all these experiences. He agrees to appear on The Word and they secretly film him getting drunk in his dressing room. Reed doesn’t care. His mission in life is to be “the last of the shit-kickers” and have his liver explode so powerfully that he brings the house down with him.
He turned down “Jaws”, shunned Hollywood and global fame, he does what he wants and to hell with opinions. Then Crouch shows us the illusion. The timid, shy artist who builds up a massive wall to hide his self-doubt. Crouch is alone on stage, success or failure rests squarely on his broad shoulders. It is a fitting mirror to Reed’s own self-rebellion and outsider instincts.
The production has a punk ethos, a small band of passionate believers taking to the road and living by what they make each night. Reed’s son, Mark, has endorsed this work. Reed’s friends have felt his presence once more. The play would work beautifully if filmed for TV, with audience intact.
Meeting Rob Crouch afterwards, here is a gentle, sweet, modest man. He had to rush away to Derby for the next show – and in April and May, they’re touring it around Ireland before more British dates. Crouch is a powerhouse on stage and a mellow gentleman off – but still with a pint in his hand and a glint in his eye.
For further tour dates and ticket information head to the Wild Thing website.
Pics courtesy of Tony Nandi