Si no ens paguen, no paguem! (Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!) is a satirical family drama written in 1974 by Nobel prize-winning Italian Dario Fo. In the play, two working class housewives resort to robbery as a means of feeding their poorly paid husbands at a time of economic stress.
In this entertaining, updated Catalan version, performed by theatre troupe Teatre de l’Enjòlit, the play is extracted from its Milanese context and transplanted to modern day Catalonia. This raises the issue of whether an examination of the situation of 35 years ago offers an insight – and solution – for today’s critical times.
Fo is a flamboyant campaigner against political corruption and social hypocrisy who bravely lampoons prominent political figures; one recent satire had Vladimir Putin’s brain inserted into Silvio Berlusconi’s head. Problem is that Fo’s plays date easily, and despite the modern touches Si no ens paguen, no paguem! is no exception.
Delivered at Fo’s signature breakneck word-speed by the enthusiastic (if breathless) Catalan cast, while the farcical, absurd elements of the play are communicated very well, reflecting the outrageous absurdity of the current economic crisis, themes of autocracy and hypocrisy in religion, gender relations and, most particularly, the Marxist message, require a more profound examination for the 21st century. Thus, the play tilts from the overly farcical to the ultimately too tragic and its final message is less defiant and rallying, than bleak – even hopeless.
No way out
For this play, the theatre and troupe has adopted a ‘pay what you feel the play to be worth’ policy. The bid to attract audiences is wholly understandable, though given the themes of the play the method is kinda ironic: a blockade is set up at the exit, at which audience members are individually detained while their contribution is publically made note of.
Give generously, I say! But take your own envelope.
Si no ens paguen, no paguem!
Teatre Tantarantana (Barcelona)
until April 14, 2013
The play is in really fast Catalan.
Reserve your seat.