The third production in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s 2022 season, We Can’t Pay, We Won’t Pay!, is a hilariously scathing rebuke of a system that favours the wealthy at the expense of the working person.
Blue Bridge’s reworking of Italian playwright Dario Fo’s farcical tale of fed-up workers’ wives refusing to pay inflated prices for groceries is damningly relevant in today’s uncertain times. In a nation of soaring food-bank use and persistent job insecurity, it’s not hard to imagine a run on the supermarkets, as people under strain are pushed to the brink.
Relocated to an early 1980s Vancouver Island pulp and paper town by director David Ferry, We Can’t Pay, We Won’t Pay! attacks a society in which parliaments work to sideline unions, corporate elites benefit from government industry incentives while avoiding tax, and the workers at the bottom of the economic ladder choose between paying for food, fuel or housing.
“While other translations are set in Italy or the United Kingdom, this version has been reworked to be local and historical to make it more relatable. The store is a Safeway, the husbands work in the town paper mill and local references populate the dialogue,” says Ferry. “However wacky, the plot is set in motion by real life circumstances: rising inflation and price hikes, factory closures and growing protests in response. While the politics of this adaptation are particular to the policies of BC’s Premier Bill Bennett—whose 1980s anti-union government policies sparked the Solidarity movement—the theme is universal: the poor pay while the rich profiteer.”
The comedy of We Can’t Pay, We Won’t Pay! is rooted in the slapstick of commedia dell’arte, featuring quick, sharp dialogue and outrageous farce that will leave the audience both thinking and laughing long after leaving the theatre. The tradition explores comedy in tragedy, making social points on a human scale through coming to know the characters.
We Can’t Pay, We Won’t Pay! runs July 5 to 17 and stars Britt Small as Tony, Dean Ifill as Johnny, Yasmin D’Oshun as Margi and RJ Peters as Lou. Elliott Loran joins the cast as The Actor. The creative team features set designer Lisa Van Oorschot, costume designer Jacqueline Gilchrist and lighting designer Rebekah Johnson.
Both streamed and in-person tickets are available online at bluebridgetheatre.ca or by calling 250-382-3370.