Low Pay? Don't Pay!
- Gareth K Vile
- 7 May 2019
Reworking of a classic Italian political comedy
With an admirable touring schedule reaching beyond the Tron and visiting a variety of local venues, Low Pay? Don't Pay! promises a scathing political satire that adapts Dario Fo's famous 1970s' script for contemporary Scotland. It moves through genres at a rapid pace, using a farce plot to follow the stirrings of activism in two families, invoking polemical agitprop, broad comedy and vaudeville slapstick. Its intentions are clear, and its message made explicit in a final, ferocious speech, yet the inconsistency of tone, and a cast that struggles to match the intensity of the plot undermines the content's passion and immediacy.
From its initial conceit – supermarket and factory staff taking direct action against management oppression – to its finale when Toni (Julie Wilson Nimmo) rants against the entire capitalist structure, Johnny McKnight's version of Fo explicitly condemns the system that drives the working class towards desperation. Its impact on the two couples – Maggie (Sally Reid) and Louis (Thierry Mabonga), Toni and Gio (Gavin Jon Wright) – ranges across daily food-poverty, lack of employment, the tensions placed on their relationships – and sporadically bursts into absurdist pantomime: an apparently dead body is hidden in a cupboard, Toni and Maggie attempt to hide their stolen groceries, the groceries become a false pregnancy, forcing Toni to invent increasingly ridiculous explanations.
The cast often pour energy into the episodic scenes, but don't always build the humour beyond periods of mania: Itxaso Moreno, playing multiple characters, frequently has the best of the physical humour: Moreno's police sergeant and inspector are most satirical characters, mocking the ambivalence of police power and the arrogance of authority.
Nevertheless, the preaching of the message, and the sudden leaps between knockabout to verbal punchlines does not necessarily serve the intentions of the script, and the satire never fully lands, making Low Pay? disjointed, passionate and polemical.