by John Graham Davies.
Tour to 18 May 2010.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 24 February 2010 at Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham.
A play of two halves: one good, one bad.
On a stage, bare except for table, two chairs and smallish screen for rear projection a single actor performs a monologue/play. It’s about a Liverpool fan at his team’s 2005 European Cup victory over A C Milan. He inadvertently finds himself sitting next to Italy’s permatanned premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Most people who see Beating Berlusconi will surely concede that it’s brilliantly conceived and executed. In many important respects writer John Graham Davies, director Matt Rutter and perhaps above all actor Paul Duckworth have achieved something special. Duckworth, with his mobile face, multitude of voices and ability to communicate by mime and gesticulation, turns in a superb performance.
As Kenny, a key-cutter when he’s in a day job, Duckworth leads us along the main narrative culminating in the Berlusconi encounter. But in between he harks back to a multitude of characters and incidents from the eighties and nineties. It’s a penetrating social history.
That’s where the problems arise. At nearly two-and-a-half hours, including the break, it’s certainly over-extended. But anyone who doesn’t buy into a particular set of clapped-out assumptions and pinched prejudices might find it an especially tiresome haul.
Davies portrays Kenny as someone with a near pathological hatred of Thatcher, and a view that all Conservatives are “scum”. He celebrates the sort of fecklessness and moronic behaviour that must, at least partly, be a cause of the ills he moans about – does Davies really believe that urinating out of a coach window is good clean fun for a man in his forties? He takes as a given that it’s more authentic and real-life to be working-class and/or from Liverpool than middle-class and/or from, say, Carshalton. All of these assumptions and a lot more in this play are, to say the least, questionable.
And throughout the piece there’s a nauseating but unavoidable sentimentality.
In more than one respect this is a play of two halves.
Kenny Noonan: Paul Duckworth.
Director: Matt Rutter.
Designer: Mike Wright.
Photography: Garth Williams.