Review: Beating Berlusconi, Nottingham Playhouse

IT’S not often that you get two football-themed shows on at a theatre in the same week, but that is exactly what audiences have been treated to at Nottingham Playhouse this week.

William Ivory’s play ‘Diary of a Football Nobody’, about footballer David McVay’s days at Notts County, has been well publicised in his home town.

But the second of these sporting spectaculars is the already critically-acclaimed ‘Beating Berlusconi’.

This tells the real-life story of Scouser Mark Radley’s journey through life as a Liverpool FC fan, culminating in a surprise encounter with ex-Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at the 2005 Champions’ League Final in Istanbul.

Written by John Graham Davies, ‘Beating Berlusconi’ is a one man show and actor Paul Duckworth plays a staggering 30 characters throughout.

His performance is mesmerising, bringing a balance of comedy and poignancy as he details the family arguments, financial worries and football successes and tragedies that his character Kenny Noonan experiences.

And the way he differentiates between characters is something to behold. It is never confusing and often very funny.

There is a strong political undercurrent to the piece, as what it means to be a Scouser is explored through the events of the 1980s and 90s.

Tory bashing brings anger to the performance, the goading of Manchester United fans brings humour and and the emotional consequences of the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters brings a realisation of what is really important in life.

The climax of the tale is the hilarious portrayal of the AC Milan v Liverpool final that leads him to meet Berlusconi.

After ignoring ‘advice’ from his wife and bank manager, Kenny decides he has to go to Istanbul.

With Liverpool 3-0 down at half time, he is distraught and goes for a wander around the Ataturk stadium, somehow ending up in the AC Milan directors’ box quaffing champagne.

He is invited to sit down next to the most powerful man in Italy who enjoys lording it over him... until Liverpool claw back all three goals.

A near punch-up ensues and Kenny has a day that he will truly never forget.

An unbelievable story that will leave a lasting impression on all who see it.

• Beating Berlusconi is also on at the Nottingham Playhouse tonight (Saturday 13th October). Tickets are still available, priced at £15 (Concessions £12, Under 26s £8.50).