Oliver Reed: Wild Thing, Theatre Review. Epstein Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *

To portray a man on stage whose reputation preceded him takes exceptional talent, to portray the wild man of British film in such demanding style deserves the largest plaudits possible and for that Rob Crouch should be taken aside and congratulated by anyone who ever worked with the Hell- raiser Oliver Reed in bringing this man’s essence back to life in the superb Oliver Reed: Wild Thing.

The Epstein Theatre has already hosted some great nights in its short time as the re-born theatre of Liverpool but to have the image of Oliver Reed, the darling and hard man of 1960s and 70s British cinema going through every significant high and low period of a life was nothing short of poetic and beautiful.

From his early life in Wimbledon, the son of a man who thought he would end up either a burglar or actor, and who must have felt proved right when Oliver landed the role as Bill Sykes, through to full frontal nudity wrestling with Alan Bates, causing Shelley Winters to lose her composure and her glass of water and to the many drinking sessions with Keith Moon and other notable so called Hell-raisers of the time, all was laid bare and before an audience that was enthralled and amazed in equal measure.

There is a moment during the performance where the lights go down just that little shade further and from the side of the darkened stage Oliver Reed is transformed into Sykes from the film Oliver, as he shouts outs his dog’s name, it is the moment of capture, the wild one, the dark enticing prince of British acting that stands on stage regaling the spellbound audience with tales of the past and let us face it, Oliver Reed was character, a man whose tremendous love of excess was only tempered by his mortality.

Between Rob Crouch and Mike Davies, this is a touching, insightful and knockabout tribute to the legend that was Oliver Reed. Astounding!

Ian D. Hall