Thurs 16th July - Sat 18th July & Mon 20th July - Sat 25th July 1987
Directed by Alison Habens & Frank Lyons
Inflation has reached an all-time high. Frustration breaks the tension as Margherita leads a revolt at the local supermarket, and looting guts the building. Margherita, and her friend Antonia, try desperately to hide their 'liberated' goods before their husbands and the police catch up with them. 'Can't Pay? Won't Pay!' is a wild farce that will not only show you how to survive on a diet of dog food and bird seed but will also ensure a good night out.
Like most of Fo's work it was written in response to specific political needs. Written in the mid 1970s 'Can't Pay? Won't Pay!' focuses on the problems of economic crisis and job redundancies.
Set in a working class suburb of Milan, 'Can't Pay? Won't Pay!' was presented in London in 1978. It was a success and was revived for London's West End in 1981 where it ran for 2 years. The play centres on a spontaneous demonstration by housewives against rising prices at the local supermarket. Crazy disasters pile on top of each other as two of them try to cope with the results of their own actions - without telling their husbands what they have been up to.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Old Man||Pot Wayward|
|Directors||Alison Habens |
|Stage Manager||Ruth Prior|
|Another Stage Manager||Damon Wakelin|
|Lighting||Jacquie Penrose |
|Set Design||David Penrose|
|Set Construction||David Hemsley-Brown |
|Front of House||Jo German|
This play is set in a 'modest working class flat' to which Antonia returns from the local supermarket after indulging in some "autoreduzione" (self-service) with her housewife comrades. The play is Fo's first feminist comedy insofar as it focuses on the problems in the economy from the viewpoint of the housewife struggling to afford the ever rising prices in the shops. Some might argue the play has lost its poignancy at a time when inflation has been brought down to single figures. Fo warned us however, in 'Can't Pay? Won't Pay! that the struggle to make ends meet and the loss of jobs is the cost that working class carry in the fight against inflation. The question for the mid 1980s is whether "autoreduzione" will return with self-service by the unemployed.
If with this play you open your mouths to laugh perhaps you will also open your minds.
Alison Habens and Frank Lyons
Everything goes in 'Can't Pay? Won't Pay!' presented by the Bench Theatre at the Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant. Women empty supermarket shelves as a protest against rising inflation, their husband pilfer bags of sugar which have fallen off the back of a lorry, and a scene stealer, Damon Wakelin, keeps emerging from the wings to remove the door.
Ad-libs ring up quickly and Pete Woodward gets more parts than a Lego set - but it is hilarious, riotous, fun from the pen of Dario Fo, brought to witty and intelligent life by the amateur acting company. Phantom pregnancies, saints, and curses are all invented to stop the police fingering the culprits who raided the store. Coffins and undertakers both appear in the plot to dispose of the spoils before the spouses find out what their partners have done.
Though written as a political statement about the life and times of Italy in the 1970s, its themes of unemployment, class division, and women's role in society strike a relevant note in 1980s Britain. Ingrid Corrigan and Jude Salmon get the play off to a witty and fast pace which never slips. I think it is the best and most enjoyable thing I have seen the Bench do so far. Do pay to see 'Can't Pay? Won't Pay!' which runs until Saturday, July 25.
The News, 17th July 1987