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McGowan's mum fears for Savile play

Published 21/05/2015

Alistair McGowan's mum has voiced fears over her son playing Jimmy Savile
Alistair McGowan's mum has voiced fears over her son playing Jimmy Savile

The writer of a play about the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal has revealed the mother of its star, Alistair McGowan, is among its critics.

Journalist Jonathan Maitland penned An Audience With Jimmy Savile to depict the story of the late TV presenter's public and private life, but he admitted the project received a "tsunami of abuse" from Twitter users.

Impressionist McGowan, who will appear as Savile in the play set to open in London next month, had reservations about taking up the role himself but both felt it was "right thing to do", Maitland told the BBC.

Speaking to Radio 5 Live's Phil Williams, he said: "I showed (the script) to Alistair because I respect his opinion and he's great and he's an intelligent chap and he comes at it from a different way. I come from it journalistically and he comes at it artistically.

"And he read it and he said, 'This has really affected me and I think it's great and if you want me to read for it I will' and I said OK.

"And yes, he, like me, approached it with a certain amount of nervousness. But then once he thought about it and we discussed it and there was really just no option, because you know we're not doing this for money, we're not doing it for fame, not doing it for glory. We're doing it because we think it's the right thing to do and it's about doing the right thing, doing it for the victims and telling a story that needs to be told.

"I got this massive tsunami of abuse on Twitter and then, once you explain it to people, I engaged with every single one and say look, I understand why you're worried and you think it's to make money, or it's a comedy or it's cheapening or sensationalising it.

"I've decided to tell it this way to try and make people understand the key, key thing, which is, how on Earth did this guy get away with it for 50 years?"

But McGowan's mother still had concerns, he said.

He said: "We were saying once you get over the initial hurdle of people saying, "Oooh what are you doing that for?' and his mum keeps on saying, apparently his mum rang him up tonight and said, 'Are you sure this is all right?', and he said 'No, it's fine', and it is fine."

The play, which draws on transcripts of interviews, witness statements and official reports, is set in 1991 and centres on a This Is Your Life-style show. It opens at the Park Theatre, in north London, in mid-June.

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