WILKO JOHNSON is to be the subject of a new play which will receive its World Premiere in his home county of Essex in the New Year.
Wilko, by Jonathan Maitland, tells the story of the DR FEELGOOD legend through words and music, having received the input and approval of the man himself prior to his sad death in November last year.
"I’ve always been a huge fan," Maitland explains. "I was mesmerised the moment I saw him careering across the stage at a Dr Feelgood gig at the Kursaal in Southend in the mid 70s. He was amazing: I was excited by the music, the image, the menace. But it was also weirdly funny. His double act with Lee Brilleaux is one of the great pairings in rock ‘n’ roll. And when Wilko was mistakenly diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012 I thought there might be a play in it, especially after reading his fantastic book on the subject. It’s a great premise: a rockstar is given 12 months to live, becomes world famous again, and goes to number one. But it turns out to be a mistake. You couldn’t make it up. I don’t want to sound pretentious but this isn’t a jukebox musical, it’s a play with music. We are hoping the piece will be like the man himself: funny, serious, edgy, literate, unique. It is also – judging by the reaction of the hundreds of members of the public who came to the rehearsed reading this year at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch - quite moving.
"I thought he would be dismissive of the project or perhaps obstructive but he couldn’t have been more helpful, kind or enthusiastic," Maitland continues. "I actually went to his house and read him the entire play, doing all the voices myself. His only real criticism was that I had got the details of his drug ingestion wrong. I had him down as a coke fiend but his chosen drug was in fact - as he explained amusingly and at length - speed."
Wilko opens at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch - midway between Wilko's home turf of Canvey Island and central London - on 1st February and continues until 24th February, with a plan to tour the country at a later date.
Tickets are on sale here.