Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre, Edinburgh (Venue 76) – until 24 August 2017
Reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Blessed memories of a Scottish sporting legend are evoked superbly by Grant O’Rourke in the Gilded Balloon’s Jocky Wilson Said.
The title makes an allusion to the time Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners royally hacked off the producers of Top of the Pops, by performing in front of a photograph of Jocky during their cover of Van Morrison’s Jackie Wilson Said. But make no mistake, it refers here to tiny titan of the oche in the heyday of darts, Fifer Jocky Wilson.
Jane Livingstone and Jonathan Cairney’s script sees Wilson stranded penniless in the desert on his way to an exhibition match in Las Vegas, ruminating on his past and his motivations. There is enough in the way of explanation for anyone young or unfortunate enough not to remember Kirkcaldy’s toothless wonder; anyone who can recall just how genuinely big a deal he was in his day will also get a great deal out of it.
O’Rourke not only has an impeccable Fife accent, he also manages to inhabit the body and spirit of Wilson completely. He also throws in some other characters from Jocky’s past, seemingly without effort.
Such one-handers can lack something visually, but Tony Cownie, sure-footed as ever, directs with aplomb. The script cleverly gives Wilson someone to talk to – a cactus called Spike, who admittedly does not have much to say in return.
The basement at the Rose Theatre will surely prove an invaluable venue, but for the moment there seem to be issues with sound. Footsteps overhead made it sound like the Nevada desert was home to herds of rampaging wildebeest, while conversations outside the toilets can be heard all too clearly. O’Rourke is far too good a performer to be affected, but others might not be so lucky.
So many biographical pieces about celebrated Scottish figures focus on sad decline and promise ultimately unfulfilled, and it would have been so easy to do that with Wilson. Instead, this is a celebration of a popular icon, who came from little to become world champion. While there is sadness here, it is ultimately a joyful hour.
This was originally an A Play, A Pie and A Pint production, but not one of those that made it to Edinburgh. Local audiences are advised to snap up this opportunity to see such a brilliant performance.
Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre, 204 Rose Street, EH2 4AZ (Venue 76)
Wednesday 2 – Thursday 24 August 2017
Daily at 3.45 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jocky-wilson-said
Gilded Balloon website: http://gildedballoon.co.uk