Writers: Mike Davis &Rob Crouch
Director: Kate Bannister
Reviewer: Kath Hill
In this glorious single hander, Rob Crouch reincarnates Oliver Reed, one of Britain’s great actors and legendary mischief makers, and takes us down the pub to share a drink or several as he recounts his story of a life lived with gusto.
Crouch is superb as Reed, with his familiar speech patterns and expansive gestures captured perfectly and no lack of charisma or volatility. Despite the comedic entrance dressed in the famous Parkinson gorilla suit and rapid fire accounts of other memorable chat show appearances, this play is no mockery of a man reduced to ridicule by alcohol but has clearly been crafted with respect and affection for Reed, his achievements, and his joie de vivre.
The monologue takes us from young Ollie’s turbulent childhood right through to his final round in Valetta during the course of the filming of Gladiator, via many swift on stage costume changes and a lot of drink, some of which gets rather liberally showered over the audience. You might not want to wear your best silk top for this show.
The costume and props are wonderful, with immaculate attention to detail and comfortable familiarity to fans. When Crouch dons Bill Sikes’ hat the resemblance to Reed is astounding, but even less obvious items such as the tweed jacket and the blue shirt are perfect and instantly trigger memories of childhood TV viewing.
Mentions of notable figures in Reed’s life take on a particular poignancy when Michael Winner’s contribution to his career is recalled, due to his very recent demise, but do not lessen the importance of figures from his personal life such as Granny May, through whom Reed was a descendant of Peter the Great, a source of inspiration. These personal stories are told movingly, enriching the knowledge of Reed and adding a vulnerability to his character that was concealed behind the public, ebullient persona.
Crouch’s performance is so convincing it is almost possible to forget that this is not Reed himself. His energy and capacity for eliciting the best from his audience are superb and at Reed’s final moments the desire to cling to him and beg him not to leave us again is almost unbearable. truly outstanding.