CAN’T PAY? WON’T PAY!
by Dario Fo and Franca Rame English version by Lino Pertile adapted by Bill Colvill and Robert Walker.
Octagon Theatre Howell Croft South BL1 1SB To 18 May 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 15 May 2pm.
BSL Signed 15 May 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01204 520661.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 May.
Farce for the times shows even anarchy needs control.
People called it autoriduzione – a mass consumer response to 1970s Italian price hikes that saw goods consuming increasing amounts of people’s income. It involved paying what you liked at the shops, which might be nothing (which might be stealing, if it wasn’t autoriduzione).
Enter Dario Fo and France Rame, very definitely from the Left, with a theatre based in cabaret and old Italian commedia dell’arte. Power here is with the people, particularly housewives Antonia and Margherita, who join a shoppers’ rebellion, their difficulties really beginning with concealing the goods they’ve just liberated.
Their law-abiding, trade union worker husbands will have nothing to do with their actions – until a lorry sheds a load which turns out not to be what it says on the sacks, but part of a tax avoidance scam (stop me if any of this seems familiar). And they’re made redundant. Then Giovanni and Antonia’s flat ends-up crammed with booty – or autoriduzione’d – goods.
Where are the police? In pursuit, searching apartments and being improbably bamboozled. There’s a left-wing Sergeant without a moustache, and a right-wing Inspector with one. They look, otherwise, alike, and resemble other visitors, something helped by Eamonn Riley playing the lot.
One policeman seems to become pregnant, as do both women; a matter of concealed shopping bags and Giovanni’s welding-equipment. There’s physical comedy too in Joe Orton Loot-like business with a coffin.
But the political point is dead serious, so important it’s made through laughter, reaching a wider audience. Elizabeth Newman’s Octagon production reaches for the spirit, putting the women centre stage, Colin Connor’s steady Giovanni firmly contrasting the wives’ quick-witted inventions and plausible stories.
Her production, though, assumes decibels and fury equal comedy, while direct talk to the audience seems half-hearted, shutting-off any inclination to join in or become sympathetically involved. And Amanda Stoodley’s peeling, shabby period set is over-assertive, suggesting people who have given-up on life.
Yet life, and vivacity, against the odds, run through Lynda Rooke’s have-a-go Antonia and Kate Coogan’s Margherita, a deliciously comical picture of someone finding her way round ever-evolving situations with surprise and newly-awakened confidence.
Giovanni: Colin Connor.
Margherita: Kate Coogan.
Luigi: Danny Cunningham.
Sergeant/Inspector/Undertaker/Old Man: Eamonn Riley.
Antonia: Lynda Rooke.
Director: Elizabeth Newman.
Designer: Amanda Stoodley.
Lighting: Mick Hughes.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Music consultant: Martin Coogan.
Movement: Lesley Hutchison.
Fight director: Terry King.
Assistant director: Rebecca Taylor.