Back from left, Colin Ford, Fiona Gwinnett, Michael Arnell, front, Lorna Wilson and Pete Harris. Picture by Peter Boam.
STAGE REVIEW There is still time to see the Apollo Theatre’s latest production, Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!
This satirical farce, by contemporary Italian playwright Dario Fo, has a political theme of workers rising up against capitalist exploitation.
According to the programme notes, Fo, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1997, uses the ancient theatrical style, commedia dell’arte, which translates as comedy of craft.
This was 16th-century Venetian street theatre, based on improvised scenarios between stock characters. One character, Arlecchino, made a loud noise by striking sticks together — hence the term slapstick.
There is plenty of slapstick in Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!
It starts with women rioting in a supermarket. Enraged by rocketing food prices, they run amok, grab any food they can and leave without paying.
The comedy revolves around two women’s desperate and absurd attempts to hide their loot from their husbands and the police.
The play was set in 1970s’ Italy, against a backdrop of economic crisis. Director Marylyn Ford has moved it to the Island in 2013, projecting film footage of Newport street scenes on to the backdrop and weaving references to local politics into the script.
The theme of financial hardship translates well to modern-day Island life. The characters are unable to pay their household bills and fear losing their jobs.
Antonia, played by Fiona Gwinnet, is a strident feminist, while Margherita (Lorna Wilson) is timid and dithering.
They arrive home with bags of stolen shopping. After Margherita hides groceries under her coat, fake pregnancy becomes a rich source of humour.
Antonia’s husband, Giovanni (Michael Arnell), is a shop steward and overly law-abiding, while Margherita’s husband, Luigi (Pete Harris) is a rather dim worker. Both men prove to be ridiculously gullible, particularly regarding Margherita’s pregnancy.
Some of the funniest moments come from Colin Ford in various roles, including two separate policemen.
The cast give energetic, over-the-top performances in this lively play.
lCan’t Pay? Won’t Pay! runs at the Apollo in Newport until tomorrow night (Saturday).