A play of two halves

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Beating Berlusconi - Blackpool Grand Theatre

When so many Liverpool supporters still dine out about their team coming back from being three nil down in the 2005 European Cup Final to beat AC Milan on penalties it’s hardly surprising that writer John Graham Davies has made such a meal about real life fan Mark Radley’s unlikely true story about the match and his personal odyssey to get to Turkey to watch it.

He somehow found himself sitting next to the opposition’s director and Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, as Liverpool achieved the almost impossible (all right he actually saw the penalties from Liverpool’s VIP box after being ejected from Milan’s for over enthusiasm but he was still there to tell the tale).

Hit

As a play it has grown from pub and studio performances to a national tour, a London run, a Norwegian hit and shortly an Italian visit – all thanks to Davies’ way with words and a tour de force performance from Paul Duckworth.

He plays Scouser Kenny Noonan (a thinly disguised Mark), his entire family, most of his friends, the occasional hostess, various politicians and a host of other characters in what is so much more than just one fan’s obsession and a series of chance encounters.

Beating Berlusconi is about the very essence of Liverpool (unless, of course, you are an Everton fan) the systematic destruction of its traditional industries by Thatcherism and the refusal to remain down and out for too long whatever the world may throw at you.

In an exhausting two-hour one-man performance the “play of two halves” runs the gamut of emotions from laugh out loud to powerful historical polemic – even recalling Robbie Fowler as Liverpool’s Player of the Season.