In 2005 Mark Radley, a cobbler from Liverpool, managed to blag his way into the AC Milan VIP suite during the 2005 Champions’ League Final in Istanbul, and ended up sitting next to Silvio Berlusconi. The game turned out to be one of the most rivetting footballing highlights of the past fifty years. But at half-time, and with Liverpool three nil down, Mark had nothing to cheer for, and he set about making a sizeable hole in the free salmon and champagne. Half an hour later he was in cloud cuckoo land, the Italian PM had lost his sense of humour, and the AC Milan VIP suite was in chaos. As Ian Rush would say – unbelievable.
I knew Mark. I was nearing the end of a long run in Hollyoaks at the time and used to have actors and crew lodging with me near Sefton Park. Numptie young actors can't go a week without losing a key, so I was regularly in and out of Mark's shop. I also had a much prized pair of ancient boots and Mark extended their life a couple of times. When I called in we always exchanged the latest footie gossip, about Liverpool FC and the imminent resurgence of Huddersfield Town. After Liverpool's amazing comeback in Istanbul I called in to congratulate him. He told me he's been in Istanbul. Even better. Then he said that something strange had happened to him during the game. When he told me about the half-time high jinx with Silvio it wasn't long before I took my finely re-glued boots home, and started writing Beating Berlusconi!
Mark’s bizarre true story in the AC Milan VIP suite and that one, amazing night in Istanbul continues to tour, creating the climax of Beating Berlusconi!, a one-man Liverpool comedy touching on many key political moments since the eighties – Hillsborough, the anti-Thatcher riots, the Iraq War, Michael Heseltine’s close acquaintance with the Tory clitoris - all this as Silvio Berlusconi retires to spend more time at his bunga-bunga parties.
Originally I’d thought of performing it myself, but my scouse accent’s shite and I’m far too old. My friend Matt Rutter put us onto Paul Duckworth. I knew Paul’d been in Brookside, and had played Ringo in the Beatles bio-pic, Backbeat, but what I didn’t expect was a human chameleon on speed. Paul ’s virtuoso, forty character performance has produced gasps of astonishment wherever it’s been seen - “a tour-de-force”, “hilarious”, “mesmerising”, “staggering” , “funny, eloquent, reflective, loveable, cheeky, cocky and deeply sad – a masterclass”. See it, and judge for yourself.
John Graham Davies