When Dario Fo’s legendary farce Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! appeared in the early 1970s, the world was a vastly different place; Margaret Thatcher was an obscure Tory MP and Britain had yet to join what was then the European Economic Community.
Low Pay? Don’t Pay!, Tron Theatre, Glasgow ****
Yet somehow the plight of working-class families in Italy at that time, as dramatised by Fo, remains instantly recognisable 50 years on, as Tron panto genius Johnny McKnight embraces the great Glasgow tradition of adapting Fo’s work for the popular Scottish stage and shifts it into a 21st-century Glasgow where a post-crash combination of low pay and soaring bills leaves hard-working families struggling to find money for day-to-day necessities.
In Fo’s play, we see two young couples – Gio and Toni, Maggie and Louis – reduced to increasingly desperate and farcical comic ploys and stratagems to fill the gaps in their budgets, until Toni finally seizes the moment, tells the truth and begins to direct her political rage against the impossible economic situation they face.
And if the earlier scenes sometimes seem a shade overlong and improbable, in a McKnight version that is possibly almost too faithful to Fo’s original, Rosalind Sydney’s production also features four richly enjoyable performances, from Julie Wilson Nimmo and Sally Reid as the women, with Gavin Jon Wright and Thierry Mabonga as the men; while Itxaso Moreno adds a true touch of satirical surrealism as various preposterous functionaries of the state, in a light-touch production that makes its point with passion, and should find a warm welcome, on its forthcoming tour of Glasgow community venues. - Joyce McMillan
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until 11 May, and on tour