Oliver: Reed Wild Thing, review: ‘A lot of fun but also a bit of a freak show’

Rob Crouch in Oliver Reed Wild Thing. Picture: Annabel Staff

Rob Crouch in Oliver Reed Wild Thing. Picture: Annabel Staff - Credit: Archant

Co-writer Rob Crouch bounds onto the stage in a gorilla suit and bullies an audience member to be his barman for the evening

Go to Google and you’ll find a 1992 clip of a tired and emotional Oliver Reed being prodded and poked to perform Wild Thing. Although strangely compelling, it is horrible to watch, taunting an old animal into performing circus tricks.

Co-writer Rob Crouch bounds onto the stage in a gorilla suit and bullies an audience member to be his barman for the evening: there’s plenty of audience participation – if you look anything like Alan Bates, you might want to keep out of Crouch’s line of sight.

Rob rehearses Reed’s early years, problems at school – being functionally illiterate by the time he reported for National Service – and his attempts to become the class clown, school bully and then clean up at sports day.

He was well connected (Carol Reed was an uncle) and incredibly good looking, so became an actor. After his face was remodelled in a bar fight, he thought his career would be prematurely over; but the episode only served to increase his notoriety and fame.


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And on it goes – the stories of legendary drinking sessions with rock stars and rugby clubs, actors (Harris, O’Toole and Burton were his libationary role models) and public bar scum. At one time he was considered the best British international actor of his time, and was even in the frame to be James Bond.

Rob Crouch has the same build as Ollie – large, overbearing, post athletic. He has all the mannerisms and has clearly researched the part well. He has even got the voice but sadly rarely uses it, preferring to holler as if to do justice to the stories he tells with so much affection.

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Reed had a loud personality, but most of the time was very quietly spoken, a manner which paradoxically added to the threat.

Almost anything could happen with him, and it usually did. A lot of fun but also a bit of a freak show.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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