CAN’T PAY? WON’T PAY!
by Dario Fo translated by Joseph Farrell.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 31 March 2012.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 12, 22 March 2.30pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 17 March 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 March.
Rioting in Romford? Hilarity in Hornchurch!
When Dario Fo’s political comedy (this version aptly confuses Karl Marx and the Marx brothers) reached Britain at an East London fringe theatre, ‘The Times’ review smartly commented on Hampstead theatregoers venturing to the (pre-Docklands) East End to enjoy a play about working-class misery.
In the wake of Austerity and the 2011 riots, Bob Carlton has gingered-up the script with local references, and given the play its toughest audience yet. It was noticeable at the press night that laughs, more fitful than continuous, came on non-political jokes – panto-like audience involvement (even a half-hearted “Oh yes, it is!” routine) or the comedy of stolen shopping being disguised as sudden pregnancies.
The political bits never raised much of a cheer. This probably reflects the territory, but Fo needs more than verbal translation. His own performances infused traditional Italiancommedia dell’ arte with political comments put over with infectiously cheery energy.
Maybe pantomime is the nearest English equivalent, but it’s very different. And Italian elements remain, somewhat adrift, especially the place of Catholicism and trade unions (forces for conservatism for Fo).
Besdies this, the London riots have different overtones from this account of housewives (yes, housewives) ‘liberating’ supermarket stock in protest at price-hikes. Carlton updates like mad, with varying success. A comic policeman changing his tune when the husbands wipe engine-oil off their faces to reveal their ethnicity is familiar-enough stuff, but the changes in the men’s lives, from car-manufacturing to taxi-driving and street-sweeping, hits home.
Performed on Claire Lyth’s bright, vulgar set, with its atrocious mass-produced wall-pictures (accurate social observation or social condescension; or both?), the hyper-active production has two squealingly energetic performances from Georgina Field and Kate Robson-Stuart, plus ones of patient weariness by Simon Jessop and slow-thinking amazement from Steve Simmonds as the deluded husbands. Jonathan Markwood works energetically at his in-and-out of role cameo collection, though they’re based on one joke which you need to find ceaselessly funny.
No wonder the revolutionary end falls back on a familiar musical. When the riots really reach Romford, Hornchurch might find this truly hilarious. Meanwhile, just hope you go on a good night.
Antonia: Georgina Field.
Maggie: Kate Robson-Stuart.
John: Simon Jessop.
Sergeant/Inspector/Undertaker/Old Man: Jonathan Markwood.
Lol: Steve Simmonds.
Director: Bob Carlton.
Designer: Claire Lyth.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.