Blog by Suzanne Ahmet (Maggie)

Hello! We are two weeks into rehearsing They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!, Deborah McAndrew’s new adaptation of Dario Fo’s original:  Non Si Paga!  Non Si Paga!

Once again Debbie has employed her rare dexterity for adaptation, this time staying true to Dario Fo’s voice for regular people. She’s put troubling, complicated, impassioned social commentary into the voices of everyday Northern England.  

Hearing current politics wrapped round the tongues of these characters adds to the richness of the dialogue and contemporary relevance of the narrative.

The best thing about rehearsal is the moment-to-moment challenge of finding a tone and style of performance, which does this piece justice. 

Whether delivered with blazing morality, dizzying confusion, earnest ideology or deadpan logic – the audience is in for a treat. Your reaction to the individual standpoints will be a vital ingredient to the evening’s events!

There is a complexity and truth inside every character, however, the situations in which they find themselves, ratchet up their more ridiculous traits. They are all clowns in the purest sense: unaffected and beautifully porous – and because they are open, we want to listen to them.  

One of the most exciting things the cast is exploring, is that sweet spot of delivery.

What do I mean by that? I guess it’s being led by the character, text and situation and using these ingredients to discover the farcical elements. Hopefully this will land us in that sweet spot and from there we can allow the humorous, dramatic and touching moments to take flight with ease. This play lives and breathes and we are passionate about sharing that life, (in all its colour), with you, each time we tell the story.

It’s a terrific challenge but this is why every day is so enticing, and it must be why Dario Fo’s writing is timeless and global. 

We’ve discovered that leaning towards soft, understated naturalism robs the text of its fullness and on the flipside, over-emphasising the dramatic or ridiculous diminishes comedic value.

Conrad Nelson’s rigorous and inspiring directorial style investigates each thought and gear change, without exception: he literally works us moment-to-moment, breath-to-breath.  Breaking down a short section of dialogue may involve a particular line being followed by a door close, coat off, thought change, kettle filling routine – all of which, once put together, plays out like a nuanced piece of music – and within 5 lines we have a complexity of play that adds to the next beat of text and to the dynamic of the scene as a whole.  

Our designer, Jessica Worrall, adds another element of truth to the ridiculous in her thoughtful choices for costume and set. Our characters may be in dire straits, but they still care fiercely for their homes, appearances and their place within the community.  

It’s an intimate cast of 5 and complicity among the ensemble is paramount.  I think it is really important to close this first blog with an ode to the ingenuity, talents and unrelenting generosity of Lisa, Steve, Mike and Matt. I feel very lucky to be their co-actor in such a sophisticated piece of work. Every day I walk into rehearsals, with tremendous gratitude and pride in my heart.  

I’m so excited.

Until next time… S xxx