Theatrical Reviews

CAN’T PAY, WON’T PAY    * * * * * 

Out of the Blue Theatre Company celebrated Nobel Prize winning Playwright Dario Fo’s 90th Birthday with a week long run of one of his celebrated works, which is as relevant now as it was when it was written in the seventies. 

Kelly Juvilee is a powerhouse of a woman. Not only is she an accomplished actress and creative, who has built up a brand-new theatre company; she has imbued it with qualities sorely needed in today’s theatre scene. Out of the Blue specialize in re-contextualizing and making dated comedy or satirical plays relevant for a modern audience. Can’t Pay, Wont Pay centres on two women, the easily-led Margarita and the frustrated Antonia who are so fed up with the rising price of food, they resort to shoplifting, this causes a knock-on effect that involves phantom pregnancies, hysterical altercations with their respective worker husbands Luigi and Giovanni and a policeman, inspector and undertaker (who all look suspiciously the same), poking their nose in where it’s not wanted; all of which grows into a hilarious farce and poignant satire of Capitalism. 

            Such is Out Of The Blue’s commitment to the piece, Director Anna Pett told me that they worked with Fo’s people in agreeing on alterations to the 1975 translation, to give the play a London setting with references to the Euro and Lewisham Hospital. Such details give the play a dystopian feel as if contemporary London has become an oppressive police state crammed with secret Communist sympathizers. This complimented the cartoonish set design by Maria Haritaki (and built by Stuart Pett) not to mention the even more animated ensemble performances. 

            Out of the Blue excel in their choice of cast. Kelly herself leads the cast with her frenetic Antonia, who struggles to justify stealing a weeks worth of shopping by arguing with all and sundry, she’s a furious, over-defensive and outrageous character who I adored, she represented that rebelliousness we all feel in the face of political oppression, she was the embodiment of ‘I’ve had enough!” Her husband Giovanni played by Aneirin George, pontificated constantly about the state of the system with such passion, that, with his Leicester accent and mad curly hair he reminded me of an 80’s union leader all the while Keir Carroll’s Luigi looked on with his gormless face that you can’t help but laugh at, every bit the natural comedian. 

            There were two stand-out performances in CPWP; Luke Jasztal’s multi-rolling Inspector/Policeman/Undertaker/Old Man; every part was hilariously conceived and executed and he was a joy to watch each time he walked out in another hat or ill-glued moustache.  The other was Joanna Rose Barton’s downtrodden and sniveling Margarita; she is so knowingly funny in her desperation at being put through the ringer, she reminds me of a female Rik Mayall (the highest compliment that I could give any performer). 

            Following last years The Bald Soprano, which I also saw at The Leicester Square theatre, I am glad (and unsurprised) that Out of The Blue have made yet another five-star production. I look forward to this plays much-needed tour and more brilliant things from this new company that’s going from strength to strength. If our star rating went up to 6 stars I would gladly give Cant Pay, Won’t Pay that accolade. 

Reviewed by Simon Jay, Theatre and Performance Magazine, 2016.