ACTORS Steve Huison and Lisa Howard are rallying to the cause in Northern Broadsides’ Brexit Britain take on Dario Fo’s 1970s’ political satire of civil disobedience Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!

Reinvented by playwright Deborah McAndrew as They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay! for the Halifax company’s co-production with York Theatre Royal, this month’s premiere finds Huison returning to a work he knows well.

“I’ve done this play before about 12 years ago at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre, and the good thing about Fo is that, similar to Bertolt Brecht’s plays in some ways, it’s adaptable to the time”, says the actor best known for starring in The Full Monty.

“This new version has contemporary references to things that are happening now and we’ve even left space to add things on the day, as it’s a very apposite time to be doing this play in the present political climate. The saying goes that ‘society is three meals deep’, and when that’s threatened the bones of society begin to rattle.”

As Fo meets Brexit and food banks, 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?

Lisa, whose previous performance of a Fo script was a series of monologues at The Brewery in Kendal, recalls seeing Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!. “I was always fascinated by the style in which it was performed with the clowning bits and the political points,” she says.

“With our production it will feel like a full-on, laugh-a-minute farce but hopefully we will have fooled the audience into a nice happy place and then make them think about the politics that arise from what happens. It’s good to do a play that at first seems frivolous but turns out to have heart and soul.”

“No trouser dropping, no vicars,” says Steve. “No, but there may be a couple of nuns,” says Lisa. “But whereas a Brian Rix farce is often sex-based, this is politically based and it feels like a new play in response to our Brexit politics.”

York Press:

Playwright Deborah McAndrew 

“It almost goes towards the boundaries of pantomime,” says Steve, who once played the dame at Harrogate Theatre. “Information keeps being thrown in, and whereas in Chekhov, they would stop and analyse why did they do that, in a farce, if you stopped, you would feel a prat. You can’t look for a reason or the rationale behind it.”

“That’s not to say there’s no sense to be made of it, because it’s having digs at how capitalism works and digs at religion and society, and how people have the power to do things,” says Lisa.

“The plot is not to be picked at, but although the characters are large and pantomimic, sometimes they’re very true, northern, working-class characters too.”

Steve and Lisa are playing husband and wife Jack and Anthea, who live on the ninth floor of a tower block. “They’s struggling to make ends meet; Anthea’s been made redundant with no benefits because she was on a zero-hours contract. She’s in charge of the housekeeping budget but she’s unable to pay the ‘leccy’ bill,” says Lisa.

“Jack works in maybe light engineering or the steel industry and he’s about to be laid off, and from there they’re going to be left with nothing, and this leads to division as poverty bites,” says Steve. “Jack’s also an old-fashioned Leftie, slightly outdated, and awful though it is to say, he’s a dinosaur. He represents the old Labour Left wing with its union roots and also its extinction.”

“But I have to try to hold on to a bit more hope than there is in the play or otherwise I’d go crackers,” says Lisa.

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