An Audience with Jimmy Savile: Victim felt ‘quite unwell’ watching Alistair McGowan’s ‘uncanny’ portrayal of paedophile DJ

Jonathan Maitland’s play opens in London tomorrow

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The Independent Culture

One of notorious paedophile Jimmy Savile’s victims has described a play about the late DJ as “uncanny” and said the she felt “quite unwell” while watching.

An Audience With Jimmy Savile opens at the Park Theatre in London this week with Alistair McGowan playing the predatory Top of the Pops presenter.

The play, which has provoked a mixed response with some questioning the ethics of portraying its disturbing story so soon after the scale of Savile’s abuse was exposed, was described was “absolutely fantastic” by victim Karin Ward.

Ms Ward was one of several victims who were consulted by playwright Jonathan Maitland during production. After attending a preview she told Sky News: "With the smell of the cigar smoke, it was almost like stepping back 40 years.”

“It was uncanny. It was impeccable, absolutely fantastic, [McGowan] was so convincing."

Full claims against Savile only emerged after his death in 2011

The BBC radio and television presenter is believed to have hundreds of victims after he exploited his position both as a celebrity working for the broadcaster and as a charity fundraiser for institutions such as Stoke Mandeville hospital to abuse children and young people.

One key scene in An Audience With Jimmy Savile is a virtually verbatim police interview during which it becomes obvious quite how the DJ manipulated his inquisitors to an astonishing degree.

“When we performed that scene at a public read-through of the play five months ago, the reaction was extraordinary,” Maitland wrote in The Independent last month.

“Afterwards, the audience said that was the moment when they realised how Savile got away with it.”

Mr Maitland has defending the project from criticism, explaining that the “urge to erase Savile from history is understandable but should be resisted” or we risk repeating the mistakes of the past.

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An Audience with Jimmy Savile is at the Park Theatre until 11 July

Ms Ward told reporters after the performance that she hadn’t expected to feel anything but actually felt “physically unwell” while watching. “It will pass [but] I’ve realised there’s still a lot in here I have to deal with.”

“I was thinking, I wish he was still alive – I wish I could confront him now. I wish I had confronted him.”

Police are continuing to investigate sex abuse allegations against the British media personality as well as following inquiries into “others” some of whom, but not all, are linked to Savile under Operation Yewtree.