Adaptation acted as a ‘mirror to our times’
By Ron Ellis
They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay! By Dario Fo
A PLAY that can be taken on three levels. Basically it is putting across a strong political message, mainly through the medium of a knockabout farce but also including audience participation with a few songs thrown in for good measure, performed by a group of actors obviously enjoying every minute of it.
On the comedy side, pure farce. Housewife Anthea (Lisa Howard), out of work and struggling to pay the bills, decides to join in with a crowd of shoppers helping themselves to the stock in a local supermarket. She has to hide the stolen from her husband Jack, a Labour man but honest as the day is long. The police come round, armed with search warrants, to all the flats in their block. Anthea enlists the help of her pal Maggie (Suzanne Ahmet) as they concoct more unbelievable stories by the minute, so we have them with groceries stuck under their dresses, pretending they are pregnant and from there on events disappear into the realms of pure fantasy, some hilarious, others ridiculous.
More enjoyable is the interaction with the audience as the actors drop out of character from time to time, break into songs and exchange comments with people on the front row. Almost like pantomime.
But, despite the humour, the underlying message is serious. The working man suffers in a time of austerity while the bosses and the rich who brought down the global economy, go scot free and continue to prosper. Worse, the Labour movement today bears no relationship to the party it used to be so who is there to help the poor? The fact that the show ends with a banner of the Jarrow March says it all.
Steve Hulson and Matt Connor play the husbands and Mike Hugo gets the best laughs in his four roles as constable, sergeant, undertaker and ‘Pops’.
Originally written by celebrated Italian playwright, Dario Fo, this adaptation was by Deborah McAndrew and the director was Conrad Nelson. Another success for the excellent Northern Broadsides company.
Star Rating 7 out of 10. A mirror to our times.