Lou Reed was well known for being fiercely independent with a mean streak, as well as an iconic figure in the alternative art movement of the late 60s/early 70s. Jonny Woo, a performer well-known to Fringe audiences through his previous forays here, attempts to capture the man and a certain snapshot of time in his show The Wild Side.
The show’s focus is Reed’s time spent at New York venue Max’s Kansas City in the early 70s, with the songs of ‘Transformer’ weaved through the various anecdotes of sex and drug-taking with other iconic figures of the same scene. Held at upstairs RCC venue The Attic, the exposed brick and darkness of the lighting goes some way to transporting us to the era portrayed. The scene on arrival is one of Woo, dressed as Reed in black wig, casually wandering up and down the aisle with beer in hand, chatting to audience members already seated. On stage the band is already playing, and as the show progresses we are introduced to each member, meeting such luminaries of the era such as Candy Darling and Sugar Plum Fairy.
Jonny Woo does an amazing job of imitating Lou Reed, and it’s clear that he’s spent a lot of time studying and perfecting his on-stage mannerisms. Woo mostly nails Reed’s singing voice, which is a huge achievement considering Woo is a far better singer with much greater range than Reed. There are times when Woo makes cheeky asides about being in a Fringe show and student cafeteria, which are funny but do remind us that the Lou Reed we are seeing is not quite the real deal and prevents a totally immersive experience.
The band as a whole is exceptional, absolutely nailing the look and feel of the era, as well as being a really tight and entertaining foil to Woo’s Reed. Special mention goes to Fi McCluskey and her phenomenal voice and performance. Every time McCluskey performed was a show highlight, especially her take on Valerie Solanas and ‘The SCUM Manifesto.’
Of course, the music is a highlight, and the audience eats up everything from the opener of ‘Vicious,’ to anticipated highlights ‘Perfect Day’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side.’ There is even a little Bowie song cameo, as well as a call to stand up at the end, which got many long-time fans dancing in the aisles.
The majority of the audience were quietly singing along at various points when favourite songs popped up during The Wild Side, however, it is not imperative that one is a Lou Reed fan to enjoy the show. Jonny Woo and his band provide an amazing, almost immersive experience into the early 70s with a show that comes across as a massive labour of love for all those involved. The Wild Side is worth seeing for this, as well as the iconic tunes played throughout.
The Wild Side plays at The Attic at RCC until Sunday 15 of March. Buy tickets here.