Dario FoCan’t Pay Won’t Pay

Written by Dario Fo
Performed by LIPA 2nd Year Drama Students
LIPA, 12th-14th May 2005

Reviewed by Julian Bond

LIPA’s Gillian Lemon took on the directorial role for Dario Fo’s satirical farce ‘Can’t Pay Won’t Pay’, relating the fightback of working class Italian women, who go a-plundering from the supermarkets whilst their menfolk strike at the giant Fiat factory in Milan.

The play itself is a wonderfully sharp and imaginative, advocating ‘bottom up’ revolution whilst attacking bourgeois hypocrisies and trade union/ Communist collusion with government. Though not normally remembered for his art criticism, it was Mao Zedong who insisted that political messages and content must be married to imaginative artistic structure. Fo easily adheres to this premise.

And of LIPA’s production? An able effort, with energetic performances from the two leads - Aimee Berwick and Scott Turnbill - and enjoyable support from a wonderfully expressive Nicola Lean as an uncomprehending neighbour, as well as well brought off attack on the good ol’ police, with Jamie Evans being of note as a heavy Lancastrian-accented Inspector.

There was some nicely imaginative moments as time slows down for a slow motion inspector allowing the thieving main characters to speed off off-stage, returning to make fun of the troubled copper. However the farce at times did drag and became irritating but giving the benefit of the doubt this may well be Fo’s writing rather than LIPA students weaknesses. The adaptation was clever in using colloquial English, Geordie, Lancashire etc (and wise to avoid poor imitations of scouse – this was a non-Liverpool cast).

Particularly good were the art deco/expressionistic/kitsch sets (slightly reminiscent of an upbeat Dr Caligari) and excellent costume design with oversized collars, buttons and lapels and garish colours.

In sum a commendable effort.

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