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Oliver Reed: Wild Thing

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Gilded Balloon
1-27 Aug (not 8, 15)

From Alex Higgins to Bill Hicks, legendary hellraisers have proved popular subjects for one man shows at the Fringe.

This ode to actor Oliver Reed - more often associated with his drunken chat show appearances than his impressive body of acting work - does not rank among the best of them, but features an outstanding performance from Rob Crouch at its centre.

The show sees Reed recount his colourful life story from a bar in Malta in 1999 while taking a break from filming Gladiator; a bar that would prove his last chance saloon.

Entering in a gorilla costume - a reference to his notorious appearance on Parkinson - he proceeds to divulge his rise from shy schoolboy to infamous drunk and demonstrates that there was at least a modicum of method (not to mention DNA stemming from Peter the Great) in his well-documented madness.

Between bottles of beer and slugs of whiskey, he proudly recalls legendary drinking sessions (he's reported to have downed 126 pints in one sitting) and successful film collaborations with the likes of Michael Winner and Ken Russell. As well as audience members he also flirts with some basic self-analysis; "Do you ever get the feeling you're playing at being a grown up?".

Crouch captures the deep, clipped voice and imposing physicality of his subject, even if he and co-writer Mike Davis struggle to shed new light on this abrasive yet compelling character. But in this affectionate portrait they and director Kate Bannister do at least remind us that the man who viewed his own life as a mere “series of pubs” had many more dimensions than most of today’s cookie-cutter movie stars can offer.


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