St James Theatre, London
Summary: Exuberant and mesmerising life story of the larger than life actor
Into a just opened pub in Malta strides-in a large men dressed in a gorilla suit, arms triumphantly raised above his head in a victory ‘V’. He mumbles something to the audience and then rips of his gorilla mask to reveal Oliver Reed, the infamous actor, womaniser and drunkard.
It’s 1999 and Reed has a day off from filming Gladiator. This turned out not only to be his last film, but his last drinking session. He died in this pub, just under five hours later, in the middle of one of his infamous drinking sessions.
Within the first few minutes, he has downed two bottles of beer and made pretty good going on the third, as he recounts how he was approached to be in Gladiator. From here, the drink continues to flow, working his way through more beer, Rum, Whisky and Gin, as Reed reflects on his quite remarkable life – descendent of Peter the Great, grandson to the founder of RADA, strip-club bouncer at 15, renowned hell raiser and one of the finest British actors of his generation.
Rob Crouch is truly mesmerising as Reed. His physical presence is uncanny, his vocal performance is remarkable, but his crowning glory is his presentation of Reed’s presence and personality; engaging you with Reeds wonderful eloquence and scaring you as his drunkenness increases. He also must have a bladder the size of a large petrol tanker, considering the amount of liquid he consumes during the play.
The script is funny and, at times, rather touching. However, Crouch’s performance turns it into something so real and exciting. In an era where we frown upon excess of any kind, Wild Thing basks in glory of a man who lived life to excess and revelled in it. It’s a glorious tribute to a great actor and a passionate personality. Above all, like the man himself, it’s not apologetic about his life and lusts. He’s having a great time and so is the audience.