Alistair McGowan's mother 'has concerns' over Jimmy Savile play

Impressionist Alistair McGowan will play the role of disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile in a play set to open in London. Credit: PA Wire

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

Journalist Jonathan Maitland wrote 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.

Savile died aged 84 in 2011 - the year before his litany of abuse was uncovered.

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 BBC Radio 5 Live.

Jonathan Maitland said he had approached the project with some 'nervousness'. Credit: PA Wire

"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," Maitland said.

"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," the writer continued.

"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."

The play about Jimmy Savile centres on a This Is Your Life-style show.. Credit: PA/PA Archive

Speaking about the "massive tsunami of abuse" he received on Twitte, Maitland said that he understood people's fears that it would be "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?" he said.

But he revealed McGowan's mother still had concerns about the project.

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.