Alistair McGowan heads Jimmy Savile drama at Park Theatre

Alistair McGowan

London’s Park Theatre is to premiere a controversial new play about disgraced showbiz knight Jimmy Savile from the pen of journalist and broadcaster Jonathan Maitland.

An Audience With Jimmy Savile is set in 1991 and a TV show celebrates the life of the “Most Trusted Man In Britain”. But while the great and the good praise him in the studio, a starkly different story unfolds in the shadows…

Drawing extensively on material from genuine interviews, transcripts and TV shows, this is the first play to explore the most shocking sex scandal of our time.

Writer Jonathan Maitland, whose acclaimed debut play Dead Sheep about Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe recently broke Park Theatre box office records, said :”An Audience with Jimmy Savile is a drama based on real events.

“It uses material from multiple sources including books, transcripts of police interviews, witness statements and several official inquiries. It also uses testimony from face-to-face interviews given to me by survivors of abuse.

“Some scenes involving Jimmy Savile have been created but they use actual and paraphrased quotes from him over a period of 60 years.

“While researching this play I have met and worked with groups such as NAPAC (a leading charity for adults abused in childhood), Phil’s Petition and Slater & Gordon (the law firm representing more than
160 people who were abused by Savile) as well as individual survivors of abuse perpetrated by Savile and others.

“We understand people are appalled by Jimmy Savile but sadly it’s impossible to erase him from history.

“Far from glorifying his crimes, we are working closely with victim support groups and aiming to tell the story of those survivors who suffered abuse but went unheard.”

The producers have confirmed that a substantial donation from any profit made by the production will be donated to the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

Pete Saunders, founder, former chief executive and spokesperson for NAPAC said: “An audience with Jimmy Savile is a serious part of the conversation we need to have about abuse.

“By exploring what he got away with we might just be able to identify and stop abusers today.

“Abuse is an issue that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. As uncomfortable as it will be for many people we need to tackle these dreadful social issues and this play is a serious contributor to that process and that conversation.

“NAPAC is pleased to be associated with everyone involved and if one child is saved as a result of this bold initiative, it
will have been worthwhile.”

The production is headed by Alistair McGowan and includes Charlotte Page, Robert Perkins, Graham Seed and Leah Whitaker.

McGowan, who will play Jimmy Savile, said: “I can well understand the unease people might feel about a play like this. But I think there are some very strong reasons for doing it.

“It’s one of most important stories of the last few years – it has changed attitudes to abuse in terms of policing and prosecution.

“But nothing I have seen yet has collated under one roof, as it were, a convincing answer to the questions everyone asks all the time: ‘How on earth did he get away with it for more than half a century?’ ‘How did he justify his crimes to himself?’ and ‘How did a shameless, abuser pull the wool over the eyes of the BBC, the NHS, the Catholic Church, politicians, royalty and the British police?’

“I think it’s very much in the public interest to try to answer all those questions – and theatre is the most effective way to do that.

“I also, on a personal level, felt ‘duped’ by the man. Most of the people of my age feel weirdly foolish that we were taken in by Jimmy Savile and – while we haven’t suffered one iota of what his victims went through – there are 12 or 15 million of us who used to watch his shows who feel that we’ve also had a part of our childhood tainted forever.”

Jez Bond

Jez Bond, artistic director of Park Theatre said: “Ever since the Greeks, theatre has been a platform for debate.

“Auditoriums are melting pots of ideas which have the power to engage inform and influence us.

“The extent of child abuse surfacing weekly in the UK highlights a deep rooted problem in society and ‘An Audience With Jimmy Savile’ raises an important debate that needs to be had.”

An Audience with Jimmy Savile runs from June 10–July 11.

*As of yesterday morning Dead Sheep has taken £133,009, breaking the all-time box office record at Park Theatre, and is on course to finish on at least £135,000 when it closes this Saturday.

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