Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Berlusconi proved no match for this unlikely European Cup hero

Paul Duckworth in Beating Berlusconi

We’ve seen A Night in November, Marie Jones’ play about a Northern Ireland Protestant who decides to follow the Republic on their World Cup adventures.

Now we’re heading to Europe, for the 2005 Champions League final when Liverpool took on AC Milan in Istanbul, and won.

Beating Berlusconi covers 40 years and 40 characters. It tells the true story of how Scouse fan Mark Radley (here called Kenny Noonan) took a wrong turning and found himself sitting beside the then Italian Prime Minister during the match.

Playwright John Graham Davies knew Mark: they used to exchange football banter every time he went to get a key cut, or shoes heeled. “After Liverpool’s amazing comeback I called in to congratulate him,” said John, a lifelong Huddersfield fan.

“He told me he’d been to the match. And even better, he said that something strange had happened to him during the game ...”

Mark had managed to blag his way into the AC Milan directors box for the game. “I saw the opportunity and took it,” he told the Harrow Times afterwards. “I could see food and champagne and thought it was some kind of communal hospitality area. I had no idea who this man was — he was really patronising, taking the mick completely.

“Then our first goal went in. After the second goal Berlusconi’s face changed, and by the third I’m jumping up and down. Berlusconi’s going mad, shouting at me in this machinegun Italian.”

Mark was bundled out of the box by Berlusconi’s men — he was mistaken for a Liverpool VIP, and escorted to the Reds’ hospitality suite, where he watched his side slot in the penalties while sitting next to Ian Rush.

After hearing Mark’s story, there was just one thing for John to do: “I went home and started writing Beating Berlusconi.” The one-man show covers many key political moments since the 80s — Hillsborough, the anti-Thatcher riots, the Iraq war... and Silvio’s bunga-bunga parties. Paul Duckworth (of Backbeat and Brookside fame) plays all 40 characters in a dizzying performance of quickfire gags and deadpan delivery. As Ian Rush would say — unbelievable.

Beating Berlsuconi!, Lyric Studio, today & tomorrow, 8pm

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