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A CurtainUp London Review
An Audience With Jimmy Savile
This opinion was confirmed many years later when on crossing the road to Regents Park Zoo, in jogging he found my four year old daughter in his path and swore at her as he had to divert course. He obviously expected us to get out of his way as he approached with speed. We'd see him at the London Marathon starting from Blackheath where he'd spent overnight at the Clarendon Hotel. This was a part of his fronting charitable work, raising money for children's charities and Stoke Mandeville Hospital. The charitable work was in itself a cover for his having access to the young and vulnerable, who didn't stand a chance against the manipulative untouchable.
The children would watch his long running BBC television programme Jim'll Fix It! in which he granted the wishes of some of the many who wrote in to him to ask for a wish or an unfulfilled ambition which would be granted thanks to the resources of the BBC. When Savile died in 2011, a pattern of sexual and paedophilic abusive behavior was revealed by victims, some of whom had been doubly hurt by suffering the act and not being believed. Parents, hospital administrators and police were seduced by his celebrity and charitable recipients were manipulated by his threats to cut off support. After his death so many came forward that the police and the BBC had to listen and launch investigations.
Jonathan Maitland is a journalist who has researched Savile and his play includes much verbatim testimony and other matters of record, like television scripts but some of his play is not verbatim. What I find particularly shocking is the blind eye turned by so many to what they acknowledged was dubious behaviour. Only Louis Theroux in his 2000 documentary on Savile made the glib Savile sound bizarre with his adulation of his mother that he called The Duchess and whose room was kept, as it had been in her life, with all her clothes regularly dry cleaned decades after her death. Theroux also got this statement out of Savile, "It's easier for me, as a single man, to say 'I don't like children' because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt." Off the scent, the stink that was Savile.
So it was that Savile appeared to have groomed the nation. The format for Maitland's play is initially one of those adulatory, televised celebrity interviews, here conducted by Graham Seed, excellent as the presenter. Cut scenes show us Lucy (Leah Whitaker) who was raped in hospital by Savile as a twelve year old and whose parents didn't believe her.
Alistair McGowan's performance as Savile exceeds expectations, so accurate is the staccato flat Yorkshire voice, the look with a hideously loud turquoise satin outfit and wispy long bottle blonde hair, the gold rings, the fat cigar, the twitchy mannerisms. Even when intensely angry he is perfectly in character. He skids around in a wheeled chair, spouting self-aggrandising banter. This wonderful performance is watched in chilled silence as we understand the damage done by this pervert who fooled so many with his charitable work.
We see a pretty redhead (Charlotte Page) a junior television assistant being asked to deliver tea to his dressing room and he demands biscuits called ginger nuts. He is repulsive. When challenged by Lucy as a grown woman, he claims that it is, "Total fabrication" and blames the press and punches her.
An Audience with Jimmy Savile is intensely uncomfortable viewing, but unless we begin to understand how he got away with it, we will not be able to prevent others abusing the vulnerable, the young and the unprotected. We could start with believing the children until we prove otherwise. I know this is painful for the falsely accused but the adults have all the power. May Jimmy Savile, disgraced, exposed and stripped of his knighthood rot in hell.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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