Relatable, funny, non‑stop laughter—and that was just the intro. No Pay, No Way! is a must see play for revolutionaries.
A real uprising in 1970s Italy, magnificently captured by Dario Fo’s 1974 play Non Si Paga! Non Si Paga! (Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!) has been recreated to reflect life in the 2020s. The reality of fascism, civil unrest and revolution takes charge in this hilarious re-imagining, captivating the audience and leading to much laughter.
It begins with two housewives, Antonia and Margherita, barging onto the set with lots of bags of food. It soon comes to light that the women have been involved in an uprising at their local supermarket.
Prices have doubled, and a rebellion is born. Antonia, played by Samantha Power, feels liberated to push this movement forward and lead the revolution she dreams of.
In contrast Margherita, played by Katherine Pearce, is worried about her job and believes that stealing is not the way forward. Antonia describes her stolen goods as “liberated loot” as she tries to “recruit” Margherita.
The food is hidden high, low and even under Margherita’s jacket. A bewildered Giovanni, her husband, believes Antonia’s explanation that Margherita is pregnant. Giovanni mentions how he had seen and heard that a group of women had been stealing from the local supermarket.
He is a union member, but not radical and does not agree with breaking the law. He describes those who defy capitalism as “left wing terrorists”.
Suddenly, sirens drown out the play and light beams on a twisting slide—it’s our “handsome revolutionary copper”, played by Anwar Russell. He is a conflicted sergeant who, to the dismay of Giovanni, agrees with the women.
The sergeant disagrees with Giovanni and says what many of us are currently thinking—this capitalist society is full of “liars and cheats”. Russell plays four characters throughout the show, one being an inspector on the “right side” of the law—the complete opposite of the sergeant.
Then we meet Luigi, played by Gurjeet Singh, who offers us constant comedy and, more importantly, unequivocal solidarity. Luigi tells Giovanni how inspired he was when he and other rail workers took to the train tracks to strike over pay and conditions.
Luigi hits out at union leaders and shows that we, as workers, should continue the fight together—with or without the union leaders. Giovanni cannot fathom how anyone would think this way until the unthinkable happens to him—he is made redundant.
Throughout the show, all I could hear was people aughing, shouting and clapping in agreement with the narrative.
It showed that, contrary to the mainstream media, more and more of us are seeking real change. We want solutions to these problems that we are all facing. As the play comes to a close, Margherita goes on a sad rant about rising bills, rising rent costs, rising food costs and stagnant wages.
Everyone is silent, and then, out of nowhere, a popular anti-fascist anthem is underway off stage from Russell, soon to be accompanied by Powers, Pearce and Morlidge. We all started to slow clap, picking up speed as the revolutionary anthem progressed, “Bella Ciao, Bella Ciao, Bella Ciao!!”.
The inspiration of revolution oozed through me as I got to my feet to applaud the amazing actors. This play is staggeringly representative of the current political mess we all find ourselves in. We all have the same question— when is this going to end?
We need a revolution. This play made me ask, what are we waiting for?
No Pay? No Way! is at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester until 10 June. Tickets from £7. To book go to bit.ly/NoPay2023
A new book by Paul O’Brien
We pick the best films showing