A contemporary message in a 1970s Italian farce

A contemporary message in a 1970s Italian farce
A series of theatre workshops in Donegal has led to a revival of a 1970s Italian farce with resonance for today’s audiences.

A series of theatre workshops in Donegal has led to a revival of a 1970s Italian farce with resonance for today’s audiences.

The new Donegal group, Bread and Roses Theatre Company, presents “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!”, the classic Italian political farce by Dario Fo, on July 16th and 17th at An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny, as part of the Earagail Arts Festival.

“There’s a tremendous spirit in the play, the way in which ordinary people decide they can do something, they can change things, they can take action,” director Kathleen McCreery said.

Bread and Roses grew from a series of theatre workshops organised in Ramelton last year by Kathleen McCreery and Mark McCollum that applied playwright Bertolt Brecht’s approaches to theatre to plays by Federico Garcia Lorca, Arthur Miller, Alan Bennett, William Shakespeare and Brecht himself. The workshops culminated in a night of theatre presented by workshop participants that drew an audience to Ramelton Town Hall.

“There was so much spirit and enthusiasm we felt we didn’t want it to end,” Kathleen said. The result was Bread and Roses, a theatre company committed to staging plays that provoke thought and challenge injustice, while providing popular entertainment.

Kathleen was a participant in theatre workshops that Dario Fo ran in the 1980s, and said his commitment to a theatre that could contribute to transforming society was inspiring. His farce, “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” has “a certain resonance in Ireland at the moment”, she said.

“There is so much relevance despite the passage of time,” she said.

As “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” opens, two women race home after a revolt at a local market, where women struggling to feed their families suddenly “liberated” goods from the shop shelves. While Antonia tries to hide the stash from her husband, Giovanni, who would not condone an illegal action, chaos and laughter ensue.

“Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay” features Margaret Hannon as Antonia, Martin McGinley as Giovanni, Valerie Bryce as Margherita, Michael Leddy as Luiugi and Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhrighde playing roles of sergeant, inspector, undertaker and old man.

The production also includes Bernadette Hopkins, set design; Tanya McLaughlin, stage manager; Mark McCollum, producer; Anne-Marie Kilfeather, costumes; Niall Cranny, lighting; Paul Rooney, sound; Guy Barriscale, set construction; and Ruairi Friel, who collaborated with Kathleen on the final song and worked with the cast on music. Kathleen’s husband, photographer Rik Walton, created the introductory montage of images that will transport audiences from the current day to the play’s 1970s setting.

The new theatre company’s name comes from the political slogan first associated with a women’s textile workers strike in Massachusetts in the early 1900s. “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses too,” one said.

“That expresses absolutely what we’re about,” Kathleen said. “Ordinary people’s struggles and plays that reflect that and hopefully inspire.”