Close this search box.

Review: No Pay? No Way! at The Royal Exchange Theatre is ‘one of a kind and astounding’

No Pay? No Way! is a surreal and farcical depiction of the calamities of late-stage capitalism.

What begins as an impromptu riot over rising food costs rapidly spirals out of control as Antonia (Samantha Power, Shameless) and best friend Margherita (Katherine Pearce, Our Girl) try desperately to hide the stolen produce from their husbands (Roger Morlidge, England is Mine and Gurjeet Singh, Ackley Bridge) as well as the police (Anwar Russell, Sunshine on Leith).

Before long, the pair have invented pregnancies, evoked the wrath of a fictional saint and accidentally convinced grown men that babies live in brine while in utero.

Needless to say, No Pay, No Way! is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

From the moment it begins, this play is by no means shy and retiring.

Credit: Johan Persson

The beginning of each act is heralded by Italian opera – which is played at frankly ear-splitting volume.

Between this and the set that leaves Noel’s House Party looking as plain as a doctor’s surgery (designed by Cèçile Trèmolières and Emeline Beroud); the audience immediately knows to expect the unexpected.

Yet, amongst all the chaos, the show still manages to discuss the very serious and unfortunately relatable issues of poverty and food insecurity with sensitivity.

The set of No Pay? No Way! is so distinctive and integral to the story it almost feels like an additional character.

Credit: Johan Persson

Trèmolières and Beroud do so many innovative and unique things with the completely open space of the Royal Exchange Theatre.

From the neon metal spiral slide- perfect for dramatic entrances or hilariously clumsy departures- to the bright orange pipes that protrude from the floor and segment the space into distinct areas, nothing about the set feels superfluous; everything adds so much to the space and the story.

Overall, the set design calls to mind a cartoon villain’s secret lair. This lends itself perfectly to the surreal nature of the story and helps uphold a retro-futuristic feel that boosts the feeling of timelessness throughout.

The expert direction of Bryony Shanahan means that, despite its breakneck pace, No Pay? No Way! still has so many moments of genuine tenderness and emotion.

The story never lags or falters and no joke falls flat. However, the audience has several moments throughout to catch their breath and the emotional beats of the story are given time to resonate.

Thought-provoking discussions are had about the realities of revolution in a way that feels organic to the characters, rather than spoon-feeding the audience Leftist theory.

Each actor seems to understand the so-called “magic formula” of comedy perfectly, giving incredibly physical, high-energy performances that never waiver.

Samantha Power is brilliant as Antonia. The driving force behind most of the shenanigans, she is simply a working-class woman determined to do her best with what little she has.

She is hilarious and relatable, incredibly dramatic and extremely human.

Her Husband Giovanni (Roger Morlidge) has a strict moral code that informs every decision he makes and the opinion he holds.

This makes him a delightful foil to Antonia and the pair have incredible chemistry.

Morlidge’s performance makes it clear that, despite his, strict standards, Giovanni has a heart of gold.

Katherine Pearce plays Antonia’s long-suffering friend and accomplice Margherita who is less of a willing participant than a reluctant sidekick.

Pearce has such a gift for physical comedy and truly stole the show multiple times.

Her husband, Luigi (Gurjeet Singh) is equally as hilarious and truly commits to each scene. He swivels between delightful dimness and righteous anger over how he and his fellow workers are being treated in an incredibly entertaining way.

In such a small yet superb cast, one could see how stealing scenes may prove difficult, yet Anwar Russell does just that! Donning many caps as Sargent/Inspector/ Old Man to name a few, Russell has so much stage presence no matter the character.

His was among the most memorable performances and he received many a standing ovation.

As a quintet, the cast is flawless, each knows their role well and their collective chemistry is astounding.

No Pay? No Way! is as heartbreaking as it is funny, and it is very funny.

As a show it understands that fighting back against oppression looks like many things, sometimes it’s direct action, sometimes it’s simply acknowledging that you deserve better, or, sometimes, it’s laughing when you have every reason not to.

No Pay? No Way! is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 10th June and tickets can be booked here.

Did we miss something? Let us know: [email protected]

Want to be the first to receive all the latest news stories, what’s on and events from the heart of Manchester? Sign up here.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Close this search box.