Jocky Wilson is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Literally. To his left, a boulder. To his right, a cactus. To his rear, a road sign: Las Vegas 180 miles. Which is where he is supposed to be taking part in an exhibition match at nine o’clock that evening. But due to a combination of “one for the road”, losing all his money to a stetson-wearing hustler and sleeping in for his early morning lift, Houston, or rather Nevada, where it’s 79 degrees in the shade and he has as much chance of thumbing a ride as he has of winning Mr Kirkcaldy let alone Mr Universe, we have a problem!
But then again, Jocky and problems go together like fags and booze. And he treats the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with an irrepressible optimism which would put Ally “And we’ll really shake them up when we win the World Cup” MacLeod to shame. Abandoned by his parents and raised in an orphanage: “perfectly pleasant”. Toothless since the age of 28, hence the nickname Gumsy: “Great Yarmouth rock and nuts are the only things that defeat me”. And stints as a coal howker and a fish processor, followed by long periods of unemployment during which he was hounded by an overzealous jobsworth from the DHSS after trying to earn a few bob at the oche: “Life, ay? Aye throwing you off course.”
Jocky Wilson Said, which fittingly for the diminutive dart player from Fife who said that he never played better than when he had “a drink on the table and a fag in my feed hand”, premiered earlier this year at A Play, A Pie and A Pint. Directed by Tony Cownie, written by Jane Livingstone and Jonathan Cairney, and with Grant O’Rourke reprising his role as the two-time World Champion who requires 180 miles to check-in rather than 180 points to check-out, this is 45 minutes of sheer delight.
O’Rourke captures Jocky’s physical and vocal mannerisms to a tee. The ease with which he switches from character to character is impressive (the DHSS jobsworth and self-proclaimed Philip Marlowe requires a show of his own). And at times, particularly towards the end of the tightly-crafted monologue which is mostly directed towards a cactus, the jocular language acquires a depth and poignancy reminiscent of the Govan philosopher Rab C. Nesbit. “The funny thing about darts when you think of it,” says Jocky, “is that you start with a big score and you aim to end up with nothing.” Such is life!