A Northern Broadsides production at the York Theatre Royal, Tuesday 9th October 2018

Review by Bill Adamson

Dario Fo’s original script for an Italian political comedy was written more than 40 years ago and this new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew brings it right up to date. The play runs at a pace that even Usain Bolt would struggle to keep up with. This kind of cadence is only possible if the cast are firing on all cylinders and believe me they are. ‘They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!’ is at its heart a classic farce, although much less frivolous than the old trouser dropping Brian Rix style. Almost every political standpoint is visible at some point; caring left wing, fascist right wing, commie and anarchist. All moulded together to provide a chorus of belly laughs.

The premise of the tale is really about the morals of taking what is not yours, something that you have not paid for and the subsequent angst of making that decision. The first half is focussed largely on the fallout from a supermarket being overrun and having its shelves cleared by those living on or below the breadline. Anthea (Lisa Howard) and Maggie (Suzanne Ahmet) are a big part of that; trying to decide how they will hide the stolen contraband, which includes dog food, budgie seed and turkey necks, from their law-abiding husbands? Using the full extent of their imagination in deciding what they will tell the police? The second half is still just as hilarious although it does go off at some rather interesting tangents; angelic choruses, coffins and pregnancy transplants. Throughout the whole thing there is great use of stunningly funny ad libs and much breaking through the fourth wall.

Every one of the cast is on top form, especially Mike Hugo who excels in his five, yes five, parts! If you like classic British comedy that exposes the ridiculousness of life and pokes fun at the “powers that be” then you will love this. This is a play that very much fits the mood of a divided and broken Brexit Britain. There is unlikely to be a better play for today out there right now. It makes you laugh and it also makes you think!

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