A FITTINGLY stark black box set, containing a single leather chair bathed in a pool of light sets the scene for An Audience With Jimmy Savile.
* * * * * *
Assembly, George Square
It could be the preset for an episode of Mastermind, except that the seat is red and the questions raised, far more disturbing.
A floor manager welcomes the audience to a recording of the 1991 TV show that ‘celebrates heroes.’ After all, Savile has saved thousands of lives, hasn’t he? ‘Clunk click every trip,’ and all that.
Off-stage, the all too familiar warbled-laugh heralds his arrival. Alistair McGowan appears, resplendent in lustrous, electric blue track suit, orange string vest, rose-tinted glasses and trademark cigar.
Eulogising the monstrous celebrity while all the time knowing the truth, Graham Seed’s sycophantic chat show host captures perfectly the culpability of the organisations Savile worked with; aware but scared. But then, as Savile warns, “People don’t want to hear that kind of thing about a good, important, generous person.”
That kind of thing being the systematic sexual abuse of vulnerable underage children.
The “good, important, generous person...” himself.
Inter-cut with scenes of one survivor’s fight to be heard, McGowan is uncanny as the depraved DJ, who could attract 22 million viewers at the height of his fame. His sinister mimicry of ‘the most trusted man in Britain’ is harrowing.
Flipping from jovial bonhomie, to scarcely concealed fury, he portrays Savile as cold, calculating, psychopath.
Surrounded by the rich and powerful - Prince Charles considered him more than a friend - he had the ear of world and church leaders alike, all happy turn a blind eye to his often less than normal behaviour.
He once declared: “The Duchess [his mother] is like a girlfriend to me.” Alarm bells should have began ringing.
Leah Whitaker gives a devastating performance as Lucy, abused by Savile at the age of 12, never more so than when reporting the crime. The futility of that action is soon apparent. It’s a brutal account of abuse played out to absolute silence.
Jonathan Maitland’s script drips with the dark irony of hindsight, uncomfortably matter-of-fact in places, it is a searing indictment of society.
Too soon to create theatre from the suffering that Savile inflicted? If pieces like this serve to highlight the collusion of the establishment in such cases, it can never be too soon. The only drawback being that by concentrating on the dead, focus is deflected from those still enjoying their liberty today.
Jim may have fixed it for thousands, but there had to have been more than a few who fixed it for him... to remain hidden in plain sight.