Dario Fo was an acclaimed Italian playwright whose works have been translated and performed around the world in constant rotation. His plays referenced the medieval Italian street theatre known as commedia dell’arte – a kind of vaudevillian sketch comedy travelling troupe. The universal themes and relatable characters in his plays means they are readily adaptable; something multi-talented writer, Marieke Hardy has proven with aplomb in her Aussie-fied Sydney Theatre Company production of No Pay? No Way!
The action takes place in a block of yellow-brick units, cleverly created on stage with a movable set and cut-away revealing entrance, lounge, kitchen and bedroom. The costumes and decor reflect a 50s aesthetic, though the story could take place at any time. Characters have Italian names and occasionally speak Italian to neighbours, and there’s also heavy use of classic Italian songs. Either it’s set in Italy or they are immigrants – again, it doesn’t really affect the story.
Margherita (Catherine Van-Davies) and Antonia (Helen Thomson) are two housewives struggling to make ends meet. They have just been involved in a supermarket protest-cum-robbery and have a stash of groceries that they somehow need to hide from their law-abiding husbands and the ever snooping police.
Antonia’s husband, Giovanni (Glenn Hazeldine), is a unionist who does everything by the book. Margherita’s husband, Luigi (Rahel Romahn) is younger and more rebellious. Both are incredibly naive and gullible. Aaron Tsindos plays several roles including a policeman, a sergeant, an old man, an undertaker – the fact that all these characters look similar is one of the self-referential gags in the play.
It is highly political and amazingly topical and very, very, funny, with Thomson in particular giving excellent comic delivery.
Until Apr 4. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $45-$103+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich