How appropriate to see this show in the week when the files on the Hillsborough disaster were finally released.
Because this was not just a play about football. It was about what it means to be Scouse, downtrodden by Margaret Thatcher’s Tories, lied about by The Sun, and desperate to scrimp every possible penny together just so you can follow your beloved Liverpool Football Club on a Saturday afternoon.
Beating Berlusconi is actor Paul Duckworth. There’s just him, a chair, a stage, and a screen showing intermittent photos and footage relevant to the tale.
Paul was a revelation. He played all 35 characters, impersonating everyone from the great football manager Bill Shankly to Kenny, the working class key cutter who is central to the story.
To hold the audience’s attention for two hours on your own takes some doing. Duckworth’s charisma was such, he more than pulled it off - with colourful language throughout!
Beating Berlusconi is chiefly about Kenny’s relationship with the two great loves of his life –his long-suffering wife Marie and Liverpool FC – and how he somehow juggles them.
Through anecdotes and visual comedy, Duckworth takes us on a journey through Kenny’s eyes from the mid-1960s to the late-’80s – the years when Liverpool were the best team in the land. Their first European Cup triumph in Rome. The Heysel Stadium disaster in Brussels. The 96 deaths at Hillsborough in 1989.
The plot hurtles to its climax with Kenny’s experience of the miraculous comeback in the Champions League final in 2005, the night he crossed paths with AC Milan president and real-life Don Corleone, Silvio Berlusconi. As a Reds supporter myself, it took me right back to exactly what I was doing when each of those historic events occurred. Such was the power, intensity and emotion of Duckworth’s performance.
But my friend was thoroughly entertained by Beating Berlusconi too. And he’s an Aston Villa fan.
As I said, this is more than just a play about football.