It was a canny move by Northern Broadsides – get the audience on your side before the play starts by having a sing-song.
Not just any song but Bring Me Sunshine as made famous by Morecambe and Wise.
After the first few bars the audience were sitting back, smiling nostalgically, remembering the Christmases when they were stuffed full of turkey and waiting for the event of the evening– the Morecambe and Wise Show.
Follow that up with Enjoy Yourself – now best known as the anthem for the Simon Mayo Drivetime Show – and you cannot go wrong.
So it proved – the audience was nicely prepared for the fast, furious, fun and funny farce They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!
It has been adapted by Deborah McAndrew – and directed by her husband Conrad Nelson – and is based on the the farce Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! by Italian actor playwright Dario Fo.
It could have been a play what Ern wrote – complete with drooping moustaches, knowing asides to the audience, perfectly timed sight gags and ‘accidental’ prop failures.
The plot – such as it is – begins with northern working class, unemployed houswife Anthea coming home loaded down with groceries she has looted from a supermarket.
Shen then enlists the help of her married neighbour Maggie – a devout Catholic, call centre worker on zero hours – to conceal the crime from her Marxist, idealist, honest, factory worker husband Jack.
Maggie’s husband Lewis gets embroiled in the proceedings as the police come knocking asking to search Anthea’s flat for the stolen goods.
To say anymore would make me sound foolish – only a wild imaginative mind could make this up.
The plot gets sillier and sillier and more madcap until it reaches a climax of a body in a coffin in a cupboard and an old man entering stage right muttering about his allotment.
In amongst the farce of fertility gods and riots are up-to-the-minute, sharp as a tack political observations.
Brexit, the take over of a Socialist party by extremists, fascist coppers, food banks, zero hours contracts, unfair distribution of wealth, poverty and the death of a working class.
It is a plea for a better, fairer world from one in which people are choosing between heating, paying the rent or eating while others are travelling first class on expenses and eating exotic dishes costing a month’s mortgage.
It exposes social injustices with a admirable sleight of hand – while your laughing at someone contemplating eating Trill broth you are also condemining a system which has let it come to that.
Conrad Nelson directs with a controlled hand and is well served by his cast of five: Lisa Howard, Steve Huison, Suzanne Ahmet, Matt Conor and Mike Hugo.
They bring a touch of individuality to their broad stereotypes, instantly recognisable and sympathetic – the everyman and woman struggling to keep their heads above water.
They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay ! is silly, political, thought-provoking fast and fun presented by Northern Broadsides’ trademark style.
They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay runs at the Stephen Joseph until Saturday November 24.
Performance times are Wednesday November 21 at 7.30pm; Thursday November 22 at 1pm and 7pm; Friday November 23 at 7.30pm and Saturday November 24 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.
For ticket information call 01723 370541 or www.sjt.uk.com