Impressionist Alistair McGowan stars in An Audience With Jimmy Savile, which was written by journalist Jonathan Maitland and opens with a preview tonight.
Maitland received abuse on Twitter after announcing that he would be staging the story of the paedophile and late TV presenter’s public and private life.
He told ITV show This Morning: “It’s an incredibly important story ... it’s one of the most important stories of the last 30 years.
“I really understand the urge to sweep him under the carpet but the trouble is that is what contributed to him and others like him getting away with it because the BBC and the NHS, when people were hinting at stuff ... people put their fingers in their ears.
“I’ve spoken to about half a dozen victims of Savile. I’ve spoken to a lot more victims of sexual abuse (carried out by others).
“The victims are incredibly supportive. Everyone’s presuming to speak for them, saying it’s exploitative and they haven’t seen it yet. The victims are saying ... ‘we want to be heard’.”
He said that the play was “not entertainment” but “like a public service forum”.
Maitland added: “In theatre you do not make money. If this makes a profit, and I really hope it does, a large chunk of it will go to the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) charity. Believe me, we’re not in it for the money and we’re not profiting.”
McGowan recently told Andrew Marr that he did not just have second thoughts about playing Savile but “third, fourth, fifth and sixth thoughts” too.
“I was so duped by him that, just after he died, BBC North wanted me to do a tribute show about him because I’d done an impression of him on my show. They asked me to talk about him and his voice and how much affection he was held in and I did it. So subsequently, I feel very pleased to be able to redress that (with the play),” he said.
Set in 1991, the play, opening at the Park Theatre, in north London, draws on transcripts of interviews, witness statements and official reports, and centres on a This Is Your Life-style show.