BREXIT Britain is the new setting for Dario Fo's 1970s' political satire of civil disobedience Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!, reinvented by Deborah McAndrew as They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!.

Based on Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante’s translation of Fo’s Italian work, McAndrew’s humorous yet serious play will be presented by Halifax company Northern Broadsides in a co-production with York Theatre Royal that premieres in York from tomorrow, under the direction of Broadside artistic director Conrad Nelson.

As Fo meets Brexit, McAndrew tells the story of Anthea, who becomes mixed up in a riot at her local supermarket, where she duly seizes the chance to stock her empty cupboards and those of her friend, but what will they say to their law-abiding husbands?

"It's ten years since Northern Broadsides did Fo's Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, so it's about time we did another of his plays," says Deborah.

"What's nice is that when we thought about doing 'Can't Pay', it coincided with the tenth anniversary of our last Fo piece, and it's good to be doing this play right now," says Conrad.

"He had wanted it to be called 'They Don't Pay! We Won't Pay', as the title meant, if they can get away with 'stealing' at the top, why should we have to pay in a world where people at the bottom always have to pay but the people at the top are getting more and more?"

Deborah rejoins: "It is now inevitably, by definition, a Brexit Britain play because we're putting it on at this time in our political history, especially as what's happening is that the people at the bottom who voted to leave will be the ones most affected by it."

"But the wonderful thing is that whichever side of the political divide you are on, we can all unify in laughing at Fo's play; everyone can laugh together at themselves," suggests Conrad.

"We are 'owning the mess' in this play, when we all feel we can't do anything but we can all jab our finger at all of them [politicians and voters alike], without prejudice, as the Far Right and the Far Left voted the same way," says Deborah.

Broadsides have used Fo's later version of his play as the basis for They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!. "It ended up being far bleaker because he was so downcast by the banking crisis, thinking that somehow the bankers were still afloat, bobbing up like corks. We had won the political argument, but nothing had changed; in fact arguably it was worse," says Deborah.

"There are so many parallels between modern Britain and food poverty [in Italy] at the time Fo wrote his play. Food poverty in all its form is now very present in this country, with food banks, 'holiday hunger' and breakfast clubs for children at schools."

Praising Fo's satirical edge in his "nod and a wink" comedy, Deborah says: "What Fo is brilliant at doing is finding the ridiculousness of it all, and it's farcical what's going on in the corridors of power – and what's farcical at the top is being played out as tragedy at the bottom."

"What's important about our adaptation is that we're being really faithful to the spirit and text of Fo's play, like we were with Accidental Death Of An Anarchist, but it has to be an adaptation, rather than just a translation," says Conrad.

"Deborah worked not only from the translation, but also from the Italian script of the re-write, going through it with an Italian academic, Manuela Contardi-Lane, from Keele University."

"It's not enough just to have a translation," says Deborah. "What Manuela could illuminate was the way the comedy worked in Italian, the vernacular Fo used and why it's funny in Italian.

"But it's still the same play with the same characters and the same things happen to those characters, so I've not altered the structure at all; there's still one long scene in the first half and shorter scenes in the second and we honour the spirit and the principles of the politics.

"There's a line in the original Italian play that says, 'we're the laughing stock of Europe' and now we are the laughing stock, so you couldn't ask for any more political resonance in a play than that. You hear that line, and the audience will think of Brexit, and how 'that's the world we live in now'."

Conrad describes the play as "nuts, but wonderfully nuts, with a style of acting that's difficult to do but makes for an inclusive experience". "It's a front-cloth play that welcomes people in and says 'we're all in it'," he says.

"We recognise these characters we're watching on stage: they're full of life, not self-conscious; they're honest and truthful, plain-speaking. There's nothing precious about this play: it's about where we are now."

Northern Broadsides and York Theatre Royal's They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay! runs at York Theatre Royal from tomorrow to October 13, then on tour to December 2. York box office: 01904 623568 or at