Can’t Pay! Won’t Pay! – Review

Can Pay. Should Pay….cause it’s entirely worth it.
Just to make clear the political orientation of this play – on more than one occasion, it pointedly accuses the Communist Party, yes that Communist Party, of being not really left wing enough. So not likely to be on Andrew Bolt’s list of things to see and almost definitely absent from the National Curriculum being currently prepared by our duly elected Minister for Education.

Not that I was overly aware of this until I was half way home on account of the layer of unapologetically slapstick hilarity laid down over the rhetoric with enthusiastic abandon and consummate skill by Director Bob Philippe and his very able cast of five (…..or eight, if you count all of Tim Williams’ near identical twin brothers, none of which I had the slightest idea existed until last night).

Karen Jones as Antonia, gets through an absolute mountain of dialogue as she first ropes her less than enthusiastic friend Margherita, played with excellent comic timing by first time actor Karen Toohey, into accepting the proceeds of an ever so casual major shoplifting incident, then spends the rest of the play more or less successfully convincing their two less than perceptive husbands (Ross Fletcher and Peter Firminger)and one similarly clueless Police Inspector (Tim Williams) that the large bag of stolen goods Margherita has stuck up her overcoat is in fact something else entirely.

See the play if you want to find out what.

Ross’s Giovanni is a perpetually active study of comically conflicted chaos and Peter’s Luigi plays off him nicely as his rather more politically pragmatic friend (though still sadly lacking in knowledge vis a vis the female reproductive system). Both were perfectly suited to the roles, even if I was initially confused by Peter’s complete lack of facial hair and the fact that Karen and Karen seemed to have stolen his signature long black coat look.

Tim Williams as, well, about 50 different characters, demonstrates a level of verbal and physical fitness that boggles the mind, as he effortlessly plays half the play’s cast entirely by himself. I for one am quite happy he never went into law enforcement.

Technically of course the whole thing went off with the practiced efficiency that is a hallmark of all Valley Artists productions. So, well done to the team of creative lunatics that yet again put together such an awesome set and to all those running about in the shadows wearing nothing but black skivvies and presumably really cool night vision goggles.

Bob Philippe has once again presented the valley with a production well worth stumping up $25 for and I recommend doing just that as soon as you absolutely can …….even if he does seem to be suggesting we should all pop into Cessnock and clean out Woolworths.

Matt Thomas

5 minutes with Bob Philippe

How long have you been a part of the Valley Artists?

 

I’m one of the founding members of VA and was involved in the first production “Come To Pieces” in 1998, just over15 years and more than 30 productions ago.

 

As director of CPWP – what number play does this make for you in a directing capacity?

 

This will be the 12th show I’m directing for VA.

 

What made you choose to do this one?  Are you a fan of this particular playwright?

 

I’d become aware of Dario Fo and his plays “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” and “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” in my last year at NIDA in 1980 and was really taken by the dynamic nature of the writing, the physical style and the cheeky Commedia dell’arte influence.

I’ve been working through my wish list over the years and this time when I took Can’t Pay down from the bookshelf it seemed right.

I am a fan of Dario Fo, along with many thousands of Europeans and people all over the world. He is a very clever satirical writer and indeed a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

 

Do you think it is timely given the state of the world at the moment?

 

Yes for many reasons and not just political ones. For a start this is a very funny play and it seems to me we can take ourselves bit too seriously at the moment so to laugh at ourselves is healthy. Beyond that, in Australia, we are seeing rapidly rising food prices, manufacturing industries closing, those in authority abusing their powers and unfair pressures on the lower income earners. These were the issues on Fo’s mind in the late 70’s.

 

What are you hoping that people who see the play walk away with?

They will walk away with smiles on their faces and over time I hope reflect on the messages within the fun.

 

As a director, do you follow a formula or science if you will in how you relate to your cast and crew or does it depend on the production?

 

Each production is different with different genre requirements. My last production, “Across the Water” was naturalistic in style and required that form of study to get as close as possible to the truth of life of the characters. And so that informs the rehearsal style.

This one though is a different animal again. It‘s a farce; fast, funny and physical, so rehearsal is tailored to that.

When we start I don’t know all the answers but I trust the process and my companions. This is a collaborative art form.

It’s good for our actors, directors and indeed our audience to experience a broad range of theatrical styles and over the years I think the Valley Artists team of people have provided just that to our community.

 

 

Educating Rita – Review

Review: Educating Rita

Date: 13-May-14
Author: Tony Palfreeman

We have seen Alan Glover in a wide variety of roles, from the stand up comical to the tragi-comical to the simply tragic. But none of these labels fits this pas de deux, featuring Cath Patterson as Rita and Alan as Frank.

Their Educating Rita is a multilayered venture into the connections between student and teacher, exuberance and exasperation, self-confidence and self-doubt, excitement and cynicism.

Alan expertly captures the character of Frank, as a mid- level academic, now teaching Open University courses for extra cash, addicted to the booze, and with a disillusioned take on academia, on teaching, and on life in general.

Rita is a Liverpudlian hairdresser set on expanding her horizons by enrolling in Frank’s English literature class. What they learn together about each other’s hopes and fears, mindsets and class structures, language and expression, is at the heart of the story. Cath Patterson, in her debut acting performance, brings much verve and energy to the role of Rita.

The theatre in the round approach is an interesting departure from the usual. Giles Tester’s imaginative stage set is Frank’s study, furnished with the teacher’s usual paraphernalia of books, papers and the odd carefully concealed bottle of alcoholic pick-me-up, and allows director Robyn Blackwell to ensure the audience feels  intimately engaged.

There is no space here to congratulate all individuals in the dedicated team, drawn together by Robyn, producer Camilla Dorsch and Stage Manager Andrew Jones, to add one more star production to the Valley Artists’ firmament. A terrific night’s entertainment.

Willy Russell wrote Educating Rita in 1980, reprising a theme introduced by George Bernard Shaw in his Pygmalion written in 1912. Both writers would be as pleased as Punch to see their timeless theme replayed by the Valley Artists in our own Laguna Hall, so many years later.

Tony Palfreeman
May 2014