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They Don't Pay. We Won't Pay
Richard Trinder, Editor
Lisa Howard as Anthea and Suzanne Ahmet as Maggie. Photo by Nobby Clark
Northern Broadsides' take on the anarchic Dario Fo's Can't Pay. Won't Pay has opened in a co-production with York Theatre Royal.

Italian playwright Dario Fo is perhaps best known for The Accidental Death of an Anarchist - a wild, madcap romp through the end-times of a left-wing activist.

Sharing the same crazyness-gene as 'Anarchist', and its enviable ability say anything and make it sound reasonable, the extensively updated They Don't Pay. We Won't Pay is a biting, hilariously stupid, and unapologetic tale of everyday folk living in a city centre high-rise council flat.

The set deserves a mention: it is a large room split between a kitchen and a sitting room, with a window out to a concrete balcony. Beyond and below that is clearly a sprawl of urbanity. The set is beautifully dressed and added greatly to the enjoyment of the play.
Extensively reworked by the rather wonderful Deborah McAndrew, Fo's vigorously left-wing sentiments have been updated to include 'the bosses', 'the bankers', 'big business' and every modern-day anti-hero. McAndrew just lines them up and shoots them down. Even the orange President of the Free World gets some stick. It's hard not to cheer.

Steve Huison as Jack and Matt Connor as Lewis. Photo by Nobby Clark
Now, apparently, it is acceptable 'because the bosses get paid too much and the bankers have ravaged the economy' to nick whatever you like from the local supermarket. After all, if you are going to pay only what you can afford then zero has to be an option.

Significantly updated to include modern political issues - Brexit of course gets a severe going-over - McAndrew has built upon Dario Fo's pantomime of a play and made it relevant, possibly prescient.

The farce is so off the wall at one point (I refer in particular to angelic choirs popping out of doors) that a cameo preview by Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass of this year's York panto could have been made to fit.

Plotting isn't a characteristic strength of Fo's plays, but left-wing politics and hilarity are. His style of addressing the audience directly takes a little getting used to but ultimately pays off as the piece approaches its joyously silly conclusion.

Lisa Howard as Anthea, Matt Connor, Steve Huison, Suzanne Ahmet as Maggie and Michael Hugo as Sergeant. Photo by Nobby Clark
They Don't Pay. We Won't Pay is farcical and satirical. It contains radical and thought provoking political messages made palatable by their highly amusing context. Despite its obvious appearance as Socialist Worker - The Musical, this is a serious piece and surely must be a candidate for a 'Pay what you can afford' evening.

Also by Richard Trinder...
Carbon Monoxide Is Deadly - Be Warned
The Private Lives Of Harrogate Rep
Tosca In Leeds
Northern Ballet. Movement Without Narrative
Dial M For Murder. Grabbed By The Narrative


They Don't Pay. We Won't Pay, 10th October 2018, 10:35 AM