‘The truth is...’ Garry Roost ends his one-man show about the life of Jimmy Savile. He doesn’t end the sentence, so I’ll end it for him. The truth is that this play is more of a tabloid exposé than a sensitive depiction of Savile’s life. In fact, this ending is the only moment in which there is any real subtlety to the performance. The line stresses the fact that we will never really know the truth behind Savile’s life. Had this kind of insight and sensitivity been maintained throughout, it may have made for a more convincing play. From being a poor kid in Leeds, leading up to his success with his well-loved show Jim’ll Fix It, Roost runs through Savile’s life with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Roost carries the role of Savile well and his impression of him is actually quite good, capturing his oddities and quirks with precision. The main issue is that it never feels like more than a caricature. Dressed in Savile’s signature tracksuit and gold bling, he does look the part. Unfortunately, his clothing isn’t the most garish thing about this production. Roost also wears angel wings throughout the production; the moments when Savile’s mum speaks to him on voiceover don’t register like they should emotionally – instead they feel like nothing more than cheap effects.
The issue of paedophilia is bravely tackled head-on and the play never skirts around the more uncomfortable ‘facts’ of Savile’s life. Roost does a good job of being unsettling when dealing with these issues. Towards the end, when Roost tells us of Savile’s experience on Jim’ll Fix It the play almost grasps a moment of emotional empathy.
Despite only being under an hour, this felt like a long performance. Roost never really became fully believable as Saville and the lack of subtlety in the staging effects just detracted from his acting. Those who know more about Savile’s life are likely to get more out of this performance. There are too many things about this production that reminded me of cheap magazines and tasteless news headlines. Whilst I’m certain this wasn’t the aim of the piece, that’s the impression it left me with. Overall it’s a rather uninspiring play, offering nothing new on Savile’s life and playing to the same old media fascination with celebrity lives.