Jocky Wilson Said

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Four stars

If you missed this when it premiered at Oran Mor in March 2017 – do yourself a favour and catch it now.

The current A Play, A Pie and A Pint season has featured choice revivals: in some cases, the casting has altered but not here. Hallelujah, eh? Because Grant O’Rourke, albeit inches taller than the diminutive darts-player, is truly under the skin and the accent of Fife-born champion Jocky Wilson.

It would be sadly easy to make a caricature out of Wilson, what with his tendency to drink too much, smoke too much and lose the rag – often while playing in championship matches – but O’Rourke guides us beyond such acquired coping mechanisms and shows us a more complex, driven character.

A surprisingly cheery, self-deprecating battler whose early years – left in a children’s home by parents who lived nearby – could have stamped ‘loser’ into his core being...until he stepped up to the oche.

However, when we encounter him, Wilson is losing big time. It’s 1979, he’s stranded in the Nevada desert en route to a Vegas event, having missed his lift – blame it on the bevvy. This incident, like the biographical details referenced by writers Jane Livingstone and Jonathan Cairney, is true.

Did Wilson make a confidante of a nearby cactus as he waited for a passing car to stop? The solitary O’Rourke persuades you that heat and dust – along with nae fags and only bottled water (yuck!) in the suitcase – can play tricks on a pre-occupied man who’s well aware the situation is his own fault.

Soon we’re hearing voices. The joshing locals in the Kirkcaldy pub, the nebby-snooty Social Security man who delights in catching Wilson winning cash prizes, high-handed officials and condescending rivals – they all come alive thanks to O’Rourke’s canny sleight of cadences and tone.

Uproariously funny, unexpectedly poignant, O’Rourke and director Tony Cownie hit the mark without fail, and without diminishing Wilson as a man or a player.