By Dario Fo
A new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew
Directed by Conrad Nelson
30th October – 3rd November 2018
Reviewed by Jennifer Walker
Photograph by Nobby Clark
They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay! could have been the perfect answer to the world we find ourselves living in. It could have been the political satire to speak to the masses, to highlight the discrepancies in justice, to bring forth a debate on social rebellion and where the blue line should really be drawn.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It was panto-esque teaching at its worst, trying to force ideas on the audience in the most unsubtle and out-of-date way.
Dario Fo created They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay! in 1974. It was then rewritten in 2008, and the themes and issues are still as relevant today with Deborah McAndrew’s 2018 adaptation, based on a translation by Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante. This is what makes it such great material, but also what makes it disappointing, as things never really change. We simply loop back to one crisis after the last, never really learning from the mistakes in our history.
The cast of Suzanne Ahmet, Matt Connor, Michael Hugo, Steve Huison and Lisa Howard try their best, but with far too much elbow nudging and winking at the audience, the comedy feels really dated and sadly out of place. Even Michael Hugo’s role swapping received laughs from the audience but seemed stale and sadly dated.
All the goods were there too, from Brexit to the NHS, even a nod to the Hillsborough inquiry, were all topics touched upon, but sadly lost in the foolishness of the rest of the play.
It was all a bit too try hard. Rather than letting the audience soak up the points made, they resorted to hammering them home like a teacher who makes sure the point is understood before moving on.
A subtle approach may have fared better.