They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!

You may not have heard of this play, but you’ll remember it for a long time. This hilarious, witty, fast paced latest offering from Northern Broadsides will have you laughing out loud and thoroughly engrossed.

Originally written by Dario Fo (the world renowned Italian playwright, entertainer and activist), “They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!”  has been expertly and authentically adapted by award winning playwright Deborah McAndrew.

The play is bursting with puns, quips, thoughtful meaning and stinging political criticism. It’s relevant to our turbulent times and presented exactly how Fo would have – but McAndrew brings a sweet optimism and delivers this through humour.

Speaking of humour, firm favourite Michael Hugo leads the way – returning to an audience that are always delighted to see him. Hugo is the icing on the cake in what is an impressive production from Broadsides – all the perfect ingredients creating a perfectly crafted and thoroughly entertaining show from start to finish.

The show starts with a sing along, a solidarity between actor and audience that paves the way for the next couple of hours. It becomes clear that times are hard (the play references austerity, brexit, foodbanks and holiday hunger) and main character Anthea has joined her fellow men in an act of defiance – looting the local supermarket!

Anthea is played by the outstanding Lisa Howard (Emmerdale) who’s character is a real northern lass struggling to cope with unemployed life on the poverty line. All of her bills are overdue, but Anthea isn’t short of imagination. Her steely and determined character is the driving force of the plot, seeing her scoop up a trolley load of groceries in solidarity with other local people who are struggling to make ends meet.

Anthea’s husband, Jack, is played by an experienced Steve Huison (Dinnerladies) who has a number of tragic yet uplifting monologues about the state of the country and politics at the moment. He is a fantastic actor, who clearly truly believes in what he is saying, and was incredibly moved at the end of the performance due to the audience response.

As the plot thickens, Anthea must hide her stolen goods and this is where the farcical nature of the plot becomes impossible not to laugh out loud at – and without giving too much away, her imagination leads our characters down a ludicrous series of events which is made all the more hilarious by the many faces of Michael Hugo. Playing no less than four parts (with some leaving you wondering how on earth he managed to go between characters so quickly) – Hugo brings the farce to life with his impeccable ability and timing. The acknowledgment of him playing multiple roles during the show provides some unbelievably funny moments – made all the more endearing by a cast who clearly enjoy his work as much as the audience do.

Completing the cast are two stellar professionals –

Suzanne Ahmet – another Broadside and New Vic regular – plays Maggie who is young, sincere and easily corrupted by her friend and neighbor Anthea. Lewis, played by Matt Connor (The Woman in Black, Emmerdale), is Maggie’s husband – a modest, happy young man who works in the same factory with Jack. Both excellent in their own right.

“One doesn’t try to tame [Fo’s] work” (Director, Conrad Nelson writes in his programme notes). Nelson has excelled in his work – delivering the message in his own style and making the most of the moments from within an excellent script. Literally staying true to Fo’s message until the very end; the play ends with a powerful moment of losing the battle but with a humble sprinkling of hope for the future.

Fo wrote the original play Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! in 1974 and then renamed his play They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay! in 2008. The authenticity and respect that Broadsides have given the original piece is clear to see – prepare to be thoroughly entertained by a superb production.

Catch this production at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday 10th November (Book Online at: or be quick to catch it in Huddersfield, Scarborough or Halifax before the end of the tour.

About Author /

Rob Stanway is the Founder of At The Theatre. He has reviewed the UK's best touring theatre (and much of the west end) for this website since 2005.

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