THIS is the story of three men whose stories are known and one woman who has kept her story to herself… until now.

She is the New York prostitute who spent the last night with Mark Chapman before he shot John Lennon in December, 1980.

She has never broken her anonymity, but in his new play for York company Pilot Theatre, Richard Hurford imagines what may have happened the day Chapman moved from a YMCA to a hotel and ordered up a prostitute. Just like the third man in the story, Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist of Catcher In The Rye.

As has come out since Chapman’s military-style shooting of the former Beatle, the Hawaiian fantasist refracted everything in his own life through JD Salinger’s book, and now Hurford applies that process too to the prostitute.

Played by Mitzi Jones, she is first seen re-entering the hotel room, 30 years later, by now middle aged, dressed respectably and her tightly hair swept back, whereupon she addresses the audience directly, compliant in our yearning to know more.

She will return to the narrator’s role at the end, mulling over why she could not be Chapman’s catcher in the rye; why she could not have stopped him; why she settled subsequently for being nothing, rather than taking the media dollar.

All speculation, but it fuels Hurford’s study of fame. This is played out in the hotel bedroom discussions of Ronan Summers’ Chapman and Jones’s Sunny, the prostitute in the very little green dress, who professes to read the gossip but not books.

Chapman doesn’t want sex; he wants a “nice talk”, and “talk” means talking – with frighteningly intense logic – about Catcher and why Chapman is Holden personified, and why he must finish off Holden’s unfinished story by not being “nothing” but being someone. And why Lennon, his hero, was just a fake, a phoney: the “lucky man who had made the grade” but then failed him.

Hurford’s psychological drama is more than a psychiatrist’s analysis of Chapman’s motives and chilling plans. It makes a statement for today’s fame-obsessed world, while humanising Chapman’s story.

Suzan McLean’s production fills the claustrophobic Studio space – the ideal setting for Lydia Denno’s suitably anonymous hotel design – and the fulminating physicality in the performances of both Summers’ manic, righteous, troubled Chapman and Jones’s initially curious, then traumatised Sunny is enhanced by their proximity, duly cranking up the tension too.

Catcher is Pilot Theatre at its best: provocative, thrilling, topical, challenging, dynamic, intelligent theatre, superbly performed and directed, and topped off with well-chosen Lennon soundtrack.

Catcher, Before Chapman Shot Lennon, Pilot Theatre, The Studio, York Theatre Royal, until June 5. Box office: 01904 623568.