THERE’S little wonder Jocky Wilson Said, a comedy play featuring a day in the life of the Fife-born world darts champion in 1979, is being reprised.

Push aside the clever writing, the idea of setting the play in the Nevada desert, where Wilson is lost in so many ways.

A major factor is Grant O’Rourke’s investment in the role.

The actor didn’t quite go to the extent of having his teeth extracted in order to achieve verisimilitude (Wilson’s sugar habit left him with a mouth of gum by the age of 28) as one wee Fife wummin in the audience once suggested.

Nevertheless, the actor has gone to extraordinary lengths to capture the essence of the man, and the world of double tops, double chins and double-sized acrylic shirts.

He captures perfectly John Thomas Wilson’s deportment.

“Jocky was only feet feet four,” says O’Rourke, “which put him at a disadvantage since the height of the dartboard meant he wasn’t even eye level with the bullseye.

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“So he had this really unorthodox technique because he was aiming upwards as well. At times you felt like he was just playing against himself.

“And there’s a vulnerability about that which we can all identify with.”

O’Rourke somehow manages to shrink his five eleven frame downwards, to re-set himself. But is keeping the jutting Jocky jawline in place a challenge?

“It’s not the jawline as such, it’s just a different placement of the smile,” he says, grinning.

“Just rearranging the lips, really. Trying to sound like someone who wears false teeth.”

The actor adds; “I’d also noticed that he had a tendency towards short breath because of his smoking and his weight, so that affects the rhythm and the energy of his speech.

“That can be a challenge when you’re doing a one man show – playing someone who, in the play, is sometimes tired and reflective but keeping the energy up.

“And the big challenge vocally for me was that Jocky was a fairly soft- spoken guy in interviews, but that doesn’t translate well to the stage. So I have to find a balance.”

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The play, by Jane Livingstone and Jonathan Cairney, doesn’t overly dwell on the darker aspects of Wilson’s life.

Jocky grew up in an orphanage when his parents were deemed unfit to raise him and met an ignominious end in a one-bedroom council flat in Fyfe.

It does highlight however how the legend’s world was, at best, only ever attached to glamour by worn Velcro - even when appearing in Las Vegas.

But did we love him because he was only ever a winner at the oche? Was the nation’s adoration related to our macho culture’s worshipping of alcohol? (Wilson’s regular pre-match intake was “lager chased by seven or eight vodkas to keep my nerves so that I can play my best.”)

“It’s true, we do still tend to focus heavily on the drinking culture that surrounded darts,” says the former RSAMD graduate.

“But maybe we overplay it as well. It’s a pub game. And these guys were playing at exhibitions sponsored by beer companies where the drinks were free.”

O’Rourke, who lives in Edinburgh, adds; “The fact is most sportsman were like that in those days. There was a well-documented drinking culture in football for decades, for example.

“But I suppose the difference is that you could play darts while drinking so it was more visible.

“It was clear that Jocky used alcohol to ease his performance anxiety, but given the circumstances it’s understandable. I’d have probably done the same if I was in his position.”

Outlander star O’Rourke, who is set reprise his appearance in Liz Lochhead’s Tartuffe at the Edinburgh Fringe, offers a wry smile as he reflects; “It’s funny though, I think darts players were the butt of the joke for their drinking just because darts was viewed as such a working class pursuit. Yet, guys like Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole were being applauded for their lifestyle and celebrated as these hellraising rascals.”

There’s no doubt heroes emerge in all shapes and sizes.

“Jocky was a humble guy who loved his family and was trying to provide for them. He just happened to have this extraordinary life.”


Jocky Wilson Said, Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Saturday.