For those who know the tales of the charismatic Oliver Reed, it’s clear that the biographical story is going to be an eventful one. But even for those who have never heard of him, the Oliver Reed: Wild Thing story told effervescently by Rob Crouch seeks to engage all audiences.
For a man who, let’s say, enjoyed his time at the pub during his lifetime, The King’s Head Theatre is a perfect location for such a story. It’s a small pub theatre located in Islington, and has the charm of a typical London local; inviting all spectators in with welcoming arms. The King’s Head Theatre is a place that I support largely, as it is not only the oldest pub theatre, but insists on paying its cast and crew despite the large fundraising required. Once inside the theatre space itself, we are welcomed to a tardis-like space, allowing for many people to fit in this interchangeable seating design. The stage is dressed minimally with a few chairs, a hat stand with some coats, and hats for costume changes. And of course, a small bar lined with beer, rum, and whiskey bottles.
The exciting adventures of Reed’s life would be engaging enough, but it’s really Crouch’s performance that brings this production to life. We are immediately drawn to the stage as Crouch appears in a gorilla costume dancing to the tune of ‘Wild Thing’, of course. The bar for energy level is really set high here, and Crouch never dips.
Paired with Mike Davis, the two have managed to create a piece of work that displays honest and fluid writing. I really enjoyed the storytelling nature of the piece, as if Oliver himself had invited you to his favourite pub, and was sharing anecdotes. If the story had had a ‘preachy’ vibe to it, it wouldn’t have worked as well. It was simply a story about a man who just really enjoys pubs.
What sets Crouch above other performers in many one-man shows is his ability to improvise with the audience. He uses a few spectators to fill in as people in his story from time to time. These moments created some of the biggest laughs in the show, simply due to Crouch’s ability to engage their playfulness and adapt accordingly being second to none.
Whether you’re a die-hard Oliver Reed fan, or simply want to hear some hilarious stories about a man who loved a few too many, Oliver Reed: Wild Thing is not to be missed. Aside from the story itself, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see showmanship at its best, with Crouch making a performance Reed would be proud of.
Oliver Reed: Wild Thing is playing The King’s Head Theatre until 28th January. For more information and tickets, see here.