Beating Berlusconi - A Play of Two Halves

Written by John G Davies
Directed by Matt Rutter

Reviewed by Jeremy Hawthorn

Scouser Kenny Noonan tells his story in a rage against the nonsense that was Capital of Culture. “What the fook do they know about us?” he declaims and his tale begins.

He's a Red. Always has been. Followed Liverpool to previous European Cup Finals and now in 2005 his beloved team are playing in Istanbul. Twenty years since the last final. He negotiates with the wife, blags the bank manager and he's on the plane. The glory days are back and he's reliving his youth...

But he's a man with memories besides football. Growing up in Lodge Lane with his two mates Minty and Moose, they're in the thick of the 1981 uprising. He does Youth Opportunity at the Garden Festival and other meaningless jobs as he survives the years of Thatcher and "Speaking Clock John Major". His friends make their own ways: Minty the drug-dealer ends up a property man in the Albert Dock (maybe still dealing). Moose becomes the first British Muslim soldier to die in Iraq.

The play's a monologue but actor Paul Duckworth can play at least three parts at once. Our three heroes get tickets for the 1989 FA semi at Hillsborough, but Minty makes them miss their train. They're still bickering in the cafe of Leeds station when suddenly they see the stadium tragedy unfolding on BBC. One man acts a whole cafe falling silent – a chilling picture in this the 20th anniversary of the disaster.

Onward to Istanbul and the Atatürk stadium. 3-0 down at half time and Kenny has had enough. He tries to leave the stadium, but can't find the way out. He ends up in the Italian corporate hospitality suite where the AC Milan directors are enjoying the result so far. They humour this inglese cretino and he takes full advantage of the food and drink on offer. The game restarts and he takes an empty seat beside this balding Don Corleone suit.

Goal! Another goal! Penalty – yesss! The Reds are level and a suddenly unwelcome Kenny is swept out by security on to the terrace. He's jumping around as the Reds win, looks back and suddenly realises Don Corleone is our Silvio, AC Milan president and Italian Prime Minister. What an escape!

Beating Berlusconi is a central piece in this years Writing on the Wall festival and it deserves its place. It's a biting critique of Liverpool over the last thirty years, it's funny and the Berlusconi episode has grabbed a lot of headlines. Just spare a thought for Mark Radley, cobbler on Allerton Road. He's the fan who really did meet Berlusconi in Istanbul. He's been dining out on the story for four years. Now everyone will say he got the idea from the play.

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