Review: Beating Berlusconi! (Everyman, Liverpool)

 

It’s been Steven Gerrard’s week, making it the perfect time for the return to Liverpool of this cracking comedy that’s partly about about his finest hour.

It’s 10 years now since Liverpool came back from 3 – 0 down to beat AC Milan in the Champions League final. Beating Berlusconi! is based on the true story of the Liverpool fan who travelled to Istanbul to see the match and, after finding his way into the AC Milan VIP suite, ended up in an executive box watching the match alongside Italian president Silvio Berlusconi.

Paul Duckworth’s one man show (written by John Graham Davies) is though about much more than the events of that one night, unforgettable though they were. Duckworth plays Kenny, a kind of archetypal Scouser who loves his city as well as his football team. We hear about the highs and lows of both, as Duckworth offers us a potted social, political and sporting history, encompassing Bill Shankly, Margaret Thatcher, the Toxteth riots, Heysel and Hillsborough, New Labour and more. And then there’s Kenny’s personal journey, taking him to a job as a cobbler, marriage and fatherhood.

It’s a hilarious tale – with some great one-liners – but the comedy is rooted in reality and often has a savage edge. There’s a brutal honesty about Davies’s script, which doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of recent decades.

Duckworth’s performance is a genuine tour de force as he plays not just Kenny but, incredibly, about thirty other characters – from Ian Rush and a ‘Wirral type’ to Penelope Cruz and a kebab seller – mesmerising the audience as he switches effortlessly from one to the other. He had us all in the palm of his hand, and we were clapping and singing along with him by the end of the night. (Incidentally, congratulations to Paul, who apparently became a grandfather on the morning of the performance!)

Steven Gerrard’s club career will finally end this weekend and the city will host another historic event, the visit of the three Cunard liners. It’s a great time to celebrate Liverpool, and going to see this extraordinary play will help you to do it.

Beating Berlusconi! is at the Everyman until Saturday 23 May. For more information, click HERE.