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No Pay? No Way!

Audrey review: Featuring stellar comic talents, this production of Dario Fo's satirical farce is among the funniest shows Sydney Theatre Company has put to the stage in years.

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No Pay? No Way!

Date: 16 Feb 2020

You trot down to the supermarket one morning to find that all the prices have risen by 30 per cent.

Whaddya gonna do about it?

Suck it up and decide which of your essentials you can do without?

Do you ask the checkout operator to speak with the manager (and risk being labelled a ‘Karen’)?

There is another option.

In Italian playwright Dario Fo’s 1974 Marxist farce – inspired by real events in Milan – unhappy shoppers take matters a step further. Priced out of the market they themselves sustain, they decide, en masse, to loot the joint.

Among the women in the supermarket that morning are Antonia and Margherita, neighbours in the same working class apartment block. The play opens with the elated women returning to Antonia’s flat to share the spoils of their political action.

Both know that their husbands would not approve. In fact, Antonia’s husband, Giovanni, a staunch trade unionist, would probably report her to the police and commence divorce proceedings.

But Antonia, who is much given to brainwaves, has the solution: she’ll hide her loot under the bed, while Margherita smuggles hers out in bags underneath her coat. At worst, Antonia tells her, people will think she’s pregnant.

What can possibly go wrong?

From here, a convoluted caper unfolds, one involving the two husbands, a socialist cop (and his higher-ranking double), much gynaecological and obstetric ignorance (“womb olives” anyone?) and a nonexistent festival celebrating a fictional Catholic martyr.

With the script reworked by adaptor Marieke Hardy to foreground the women’s experience, directed by Sarah Giles (who also directed Sydney Theatre Company’s 2018 production of Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist), and featuring some stellar comic talents, this production is among the funniest STC has put to the stage in years.

Helen Thomson is deftly hilarious as Antonia, whose outlandish work-arounds fuel the spiralling crisis of the play. Catherine Văn-Davies’ comic athleticism comes to the fore as the mousy Margherita is forced out of her shell.

Glenn Hazeldine is marvellously funny as Giovanni, never more so than when he’s eying up a can of dog food for dinner. Rahel Romahn is likewise excellent as the hot-tempered Luigi. Aaron Tsindos generates ripples of delighted applause for his comically contrasting carabinieri and a goofy undertaker.

What would Fo think of a production so lavishly resourced as this? After all, Charles Davis’ set budget would run several independent theatre companies for a year. What would he make of a cheap seats deal subsidised by a bank? The ironies are abundant in a mainstage production of such a work.

But Fo’s anger resounds – even in the plush Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre – and thanks in part to Hardy’s repointing of the script, No Pay? No Way! speaks clearly to the situation we find ourselves in now, one in which political and corporate elites comfort themselves with the knowledge that ordinary folk are all working too damn hard to care about their pork-barrelling and pocket-lining.

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