Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Beating Berlusconi

Oh dear, I'm slipping. Almost a week has gone by since I saw the production I'm about to review and I haven't got round to writing about it...it's certainly not a reflection on the quality of the play, it's probably the heat. Speaking of which, a boiling hot evening is probably not the best time to visit an un air conditioned fringe venue, but we tried not to let that ruin our enjoyment of Beating Berlusconi, which is quite simply the funniest thing I've seen on stage since I went to see Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, and I don't think the latter were even trying to be funny...

Beating Berlusconi is based on the true story of a Liverpool fan who blagged his way to the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul (where we of course won on penalties). But the play is so much more than that; it's like a distillation of finest scouse spirit, comprising elements of politics and humour along with the footy. It describes the life of a fan, viewed through the lens of his football club, taking in the historical milestones such as Heysel and Hillsborough along the way.

It brought back so many memories of living in Liverpool, and visiting Anfield, an awareness of that intense tribal loyalty, to which I wanted to belong but didn't really feel entitled to (having been born 20 odd miles away). It took me right back to Liverpool in the 80s, when the city was a last bastion against Thatcherism, and a beacon of hope and humour. I think scousers invented and lived the idea that politics is personal way before any feminist theorists, in Liverpool, it doesn't matter what your status, politics is the bread of daily life. I remembered the garden festival, and actually heckling Margaret Thatcher, who unfortunately chose to visit the same day.

And for anyone who loathes united and that scottish prat, there is a fantastic scene at Manchester Airport, where the scouse hoards depart for the final, and while waiting for their flights mercilessly bombard the mancunian security stafff with jokes about united, ferguson, and all things Manchester in general.

And all this is delivered by just one actor...name of Paul Duckworth according to my quick google search, who has the most mobile and emotive face I've every seen. He single handedly portrayed a huge variety of characters, including the protagonist's wife, his two best mates, his dad, not to mention the aforementioned Manc airport staff. Duckworth's energy is awesome, by the end of the first act his shirt was soaked with sweat, and the one he changed it for at the interval was equally drenched by the end of the evening. He delivered humour, energy, anger and pathos.

The play has now finished its run at the King's Head in Islington, but do google it and go and see it if it comes on again, or is playing elsewhere. More fun than the Liverbirds, Bread and Brookie combined.

I'm also thinking of instituting an award, the Brew Award, for those who introduce me to worthwhile artistic and cultural experiences. So the initial Brew award goes to my mate Ali, who saw this, got the tickets and generally organised me into going to see it. Nice one!

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