THEATRE | Northern Broadsides’ They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!

With swipes at austerity and Brexit Britain, NORTHERN BROADSIDES make DARIO FO’s Marxist comedy from 1974 a farce for our times says RICHARD HORSMAN

It’s a farce. Not quite ‘whoops, there go my trousers’ farce, but there’s plenty of absurdity on stage, especially around the need for one actor to play multiple characters, including two police officers .. one with and one without a ‘tash. Micheal Hugo relishes the opportunity.

Yet beneath the slapstick, which includes a lot of ‘stuff it up the jumper’ fake pregnancy malarkey, there’s something else going on.

Deb McAndrew has deftly adapted Dario Fo’s political satire to weave in references to contemporary events here in the UK, including corporate greed, austerity .. and of course, Brexit.

Fo himself updated his own work in 2008 following the global financial crash, including the title. “We Can’t Pay – We Won’t Pay’ became “They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!” for greater impact in a world of elites .. they don’t pay, so why should we?

Political theatre was very much a thing in the 70s and Dario Fo was a prime exponent; his best known work being The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Today’s audiences are less attuned to the genre.

The cast have a whale of a time with the material.

Lisa Howard quickly establishes empathy for her character of Anthea, a “just about managing” wife who certainly manages her husband Jack (Steve Huison), an old fashioned union type who wants socialism but won’t condone direct action of the sort Anthea has just become, inadvertantly, embroiled in; a protest in the local Aldi which ended up with some low level looting.

Meanwhile young newlyweds Maggie and Lewis (Suzanne Ahmet and Matt Connor) become involved as Anthea’s increasingly desperate measures to hide and move the stolen goods result in a plot around a supposed pregnancy that rapidly spirals out of control, culminating in some brilliantly staged physical comedy around her supposed ‘breaking waters’.

Add Micheal Hugo’s Marxist bobby/fascist sergeant for comment on the role of the police, and then a possibly female, possibly transvestite undertaker just for laughs, and the stage is set for a laugh out loud evening of theatre that also makes you think; especially about the role of today’s socialist activists and campaigners relative to the generations that have gone before.

Tue 23 October-Sat 27 October at 7.30pm (Mat: 25 & 27 October at 2pm) –Hull Truck Theatre

Box office: 01482 323638

Tue 30 October-Sat 3 November at 7.30pm (31 October at 5.30pm Mat: 1 November at 1.30pm & 3 Nov at 2pm) -Liverpool Playhouse

Box office: 0151 7094776

Tue 6- Sat 10 November at 7.30pm (Mat: 8 & 10 November at 2.15pm) -New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Box Office 01782 717962 or

Tue 13-Sat 17 November at 7.30pm (Mat: 17 November at 2.30pm)

Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

Box Office: 01484 430528

Tue 20– Sat 24 November at 7.30pm (Mat: 22 November 1.30pm & 24 November at 2.30pm) -Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Box Office: 01723 370541

Tue 27 Nov – Sun 2 December at 7.30pm (Mat: 01 Dec at 2.30pm & 02 December at 4pm) -The Viaduct Theatre, Halifax

Box Office 01422 255 266 or

Photography: Nobby Clark