They Don't Pay, We Won't Pay! - Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Photo credit: Pamela Raith
This is a new adaptation of Dario Fo’s ‘Don’t pay Won’t pay’. Originally set in Italy in the 70’s, it tells the story of ordinary people who are struggling when everything appears to be stacked against them. Adapted by Deborah McAndrew it brings a witty view on Post Brexit Britain with a modern farce that also delivers a punch.
The plot itself maybe absurd and farcical, but it allows a number of contemporary events to be slotted in to give it that modern feel. However, while this is a very light-hearted play, the themes covered are serious. Ryan McBride clearly found all the relevant light and shade in this piece which allows contemplative thought and well as lots of giggles.
Anthea played by Laura Doddington, who is weeks behind with her rent, electricity and gas bills, delivered a strong performance, the pantomime style nature of the play allowed her to converse directly with the audience, usually drawing attention to some rather excruciating pun or other and her animated pretence over the imaginary Saint Eulalia was highly amusing.
Tesni Kujore played Anthea’s somewhat naïve neighbour Maggie, gave us a confused tele sales operator bullied along by Anthea into all sorts of antics, while really having no idea what was going on. Kujore’s portrayal was hilarious and charming at the same time.
Anthea’s trade unionist husband Jack was played by Joseph Alessi. This was a very strong performance both through Alessi’s physicality and his acting, and alongside him, playing Maggie’s husband Lewis, was Jack Shalloo, whose desire to do something to make him feel alive ends up in him joining a sit-down protest. Both men came into their own in the ‘rice stealing-coffin hiding’ scene which was well timed and delivered.
These four leads all are very impressive with their energy and physical comedy, but it is impossible to not mention Marc Pickering who took on the multiple roles of constable, sergeant, Irish undertaker, Pops and a rock star postman! Marc has a special talent at switching through these roles like a knife through butter – with or without facial hair incidents! At times it seemed impossible it was the same actor appearing and reappearing in so many different guises. His facial expressions were superb and his comedy timing excellent. The show would have been good without him. but he took it to another level with his comedic stage presence.
The addition of a community choir at the end was an interesting touch but I didn’t understand why it was a celebration of the cost of living crisis and the effect that has on the hardest hit. Nice but I question its relevance to the piece.
However, once again, the Mercury has excelled at giving us a high-quality production, which I sure many will enjoy.