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Review | No Pay? No Way! | Royal Exchange Theatre | 17/05/2023

Originally an Italian piece written in the 1970’s, 'No Pay? No Way!' has been adapted for current day. Having debuted in Sydney in 2020, only to be cut short by a certain pandemic, it now receives its UK premiere at the stunning Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

This political comedy tackles the current cost of living crisis head on. We meet Antonia (Samantha Power) and Margherita (Katherine Pearce) who have revolted at the local supermarket by refusing to pay for their groceries, which have doubled in cost. Knowing their partners Giovanni (Roger Morlidge) and Luigi (Gurjeet Singh) will be furious about what they have done, a web of hilarious and unbelievable lies is spun to cover their tracks.

Adapted by Australian writer Marieke Hardy, this new version somehow feels fabulously British. It is like watching an 80’s BBC sitcom, but with aptly timed themes. It is difficult to tread the line between sensitive issues and humour, however ‘No Pay No Way’ does so with ease. My cheeks were hurting from laughter by the interval, and by the smiles on the faces of the audience as they left I wasn’t alone.

This is truly an ensemble piece, with each actor delivering the goods (or in some cases stealing them). It is however Anwar Russell who gets some of the biggest laughs of the night, playing multiple roles with ease. Entering as both a Police Sergeant and Inspector down a huge yellow helter-skelter slide, he had the audience in the palm of his hand throughout.

Cécile Trémolières’ set design is inspired. Plastered in fun pastel colours, it was almost like stepping in to Super Mario’s world. This backdrop perfectly complimented the light-hearted tone of the show. The energy and tone stay consistent until the show culminates with the more important messages given more direct attention. It takes a balanced approach to this sensitive subject, navigating close-to-the-bone moments with finesse. Closing with an up-tempo version of Italian protest song ‘Bella Ciao' was truly an inspired creative decision.

Stand out moments included breaking the fourth wall multiple times with hilarious show stops, both by characters and people dressed in the venues uniform. This led to hysterical expertly choreographed movements, with actors pretending that helicopters were overhead and travelators were on the stage. The comedy was complemented impeccably by instrumentals that wouldn’t be out of place in an Agatha Christie tale. Elliot Griggs proved how clever lighting design alone can have an audience in stitches at multiple points… although you’ll have to go for

yourself to find out why!

The Royal Exchange have knocked it out of the park with this charming and unapologetically bonkers play. Everyone around me left with smiles on their faces, with each person no doubt still thinking about the more serious subject matter itself. This perfect blend of comedy and social commentary makes it one to catch. 'No Pay? No Way!' is on at Royal Exchange Theatre until 10/06/2023. See below for booking information:

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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