Co-Artistic Director Bryony Shanahan’s last hurrah at the Royal Exchange is a political farce that feels as though it was written directly from today’s news.

Credit: Johan Persson

No Pay? No Way! is a translation of a 1974 Italian play Non Si Paga! Non Si Paga! by Dario Fo and Franca Rame. The English translation by Marieke Hardy debuted in Sydney, Australia in 2020 (before its run was cut short by the pandemic). 

The play centres on women, particularly unpaid domestic labour usually done by women, and Margherita (Katherine Pearce) and Antonia (Samantha Powell) guide the action as they lead the revolution – from the supermarket all the way into their own marriages.

The standout performance was from Anwar Russell, who multi-roled his way through the action with real talent. His knack for comedy is incredible to witness, particularly as the Sergeant and the Inspector in scenes shared with Roger Morlidge’s Giovanni. Russell’s handling of the (planned!) show stop is the hardest I’ve laughed in a theatre in a LONG time. 

Credit: Johan Persson/

When a play is described by its theatre as a “ferocious and feisty political comedy” and “an urgent exploration of our global economic reality”, you go in with certain expectations. Expectations of its gravitas, its No Pay? No Way! fell slightly short and played its politics frustratingly safe. We ask: ‘Why now? Why this?’ a lot in theatre, and while the play certainly answers those questions, it doesn’t really do anything with it. Margherita’s final monologue builds into a powerful crescendo of absolute exhaustion at the state of the political landscape and then… the play just ends. I know that it’s not very realistic of me to expect a play to solve the cost of living crisis in the space of two and a half hours, but it starts as if it’s trying to. And then they sing Bella Ciao. Why?

No Pay? No Way! is a very strong play, incredibly staged and wonderfully acted. While its politics aren’t particularly cutting-edge, you probably won’t disagree with anything it says and the comedy is strong enough to carry it through. The on-stage slide is worth the ticket price alone.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

No Pay? No Way! is on at Manchester’s Royal Exchange until the 10th of June – find out more here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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