Footie play is champion

Paul Duckworth plays 35 characters in Beating Berlusconi.
Paul Duckworth plays 35 characters in Beating Berlusconi.

It was whilst playing Les Hunter in Hollyoaks that actor and writer John Graham Davies met a Liverpool key cutter called Mark Radley.

The result of this chance meeting was a one-man show about one of the greatest games of football ever played.

“I was nearing the end of a long run in Hollyoaks at the time and used to have actors and crew lodging with me near Sefton Park,” explains John.

“Numptie young actors can’t go a week without losing a key, so I was regularly in and out of Mark’s shop.

“When I called in we always exchanged the latest footie gossip, about (Mark’s team) Liverpool FC and the imminent resurgence of my team Huddersfield Town.”

After Liverpool came from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties in the 2005 European Champions League final, John called in to congratulate Mark.

Mark told him he’d actually travelled to the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul to watch the game. Not only that, but a funny thing happened to him during that amazing match.

“After Liverpool went 3-0 down, he left his wife and daughter and went for a walk to find food and water, which was in short supply, and a programme,” says John.

“He got lost and found his way to a door, peered through the glass and could see waiters. He went in, in his full Liverpool colours, not realising where he was.

“Then he started drinking champage and salmon and sat next to this Don Corleone lookalike to watch the second-half.”

Mark had no idea the pompous figure with the slicked-back hair was AC Milan president, Italian prime minister and one of Italy’s richest and most notorious men, Silvio Berlusconi.

As Berlusconi mocked Mark with ‘3-0’ gestures, the penny dropped. He’d mistakenly stumbled on the AC Milan VIP room!

“But as the Liverpool goals started going in, the atmosphere changed,” John goes on.

“Mark managed to keep a lid on his celebrations until the third goal (by Xabi Alonso) went in and then he couldn’t contain himself.

“Berlusconi started jabbing him in the chest and security threw him out!

“But they thought because he’d come out of the Italian VIP section he must be a Liverpool VIP, so they put him in their section.

“He ended up watching extra time and penalties with his boyhood heroes. And he got a programme too.”

John was so taken with Mark’s story, he wrote a play about it.

He then recruited Liverpool actor Paul Duckworth, who played Ringo Starr in The Beatles biopic Backbeat, to play the cast of all 35 characters.

The play centres around the life story of an ordinary Scouse lad, appropriately named Kenny.

Paul’s versatile performance is accompanied by audio and footage of the 2005 final and other Liverpool matches. The finished article is called Beating Berlusconi, and it’s been playing to rave reviews all over the country.

“It’s very intense when it’s shown in Liverpool,” says John.

“You can’t do a show about LFC without mentioning the disasters at Heysel and Hillsborough. When these are mentioned we usually have people shouting out in anger.

“But most of the play raises laughter.

But Beating Berlusconi is not just a play about football. It’s about what it means to be a football supporter, but also explores Scouse identity, politics and romance.

Beating Berlusconi, a laughter and tears tale of one man’s attempt to rediscover his belief in himself, his club, his city and his class, will be shown at the Platform in Morecambe this Saturday night (September 8) from 8pm.

Tickets cost £12 (£10 concessions) and are available by calling 01524 598500 or visiting local Visitor Information Centres.

Greg Lambert