Samantha returns to the Royal Exchange later this month in a new adaptation of Dario Fo’s and Franca Rame’s NO PAY? NO WAY!
This new production is written by Australian writer Marieke Hardy, the original 1974 production was originally in Italian and co-written by Dario Fo and Franca Rame.
The play follows the story of two women who participate in a protest against inflation, which results in a frenzied supermarket raid.
The pair go home and must hide their stolen goods from their husbands and the police, of course, hilarity and hysterical chaos ensue.
One part of the mischievous duo is Samantha’s character, Antonia.
Sharp, sneaky, politically witty, and brilliantly funny, Antonia is an entertaining character who often steals the show whenever she is on stage.
While talking to Samantha, we talked about the joy of playing such a character and how the play couldn’t have debuted in the UK at a better time, in terms of today’s working-class climate.
The play is about working-class women and the struggles of rising costs and inflation in working-class life. Is this something you can relate to?
I’m very much from a working-class family. I was brought up in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, my dad was a lorry driver, and my mum was a part-time cleaner with three kids. There wasn’t a lot of money around and sometimes it was a struggle, so I understand that world. Nowadays everyone is being affected by working-class struggles because of things like COVID and the cost-of-living crisis.
This is originally an Italian play written in the 70’s however it is being performed for modern British audiences., with this being said, do you think the working-class story transcends language and culture barriers?
I think COVID being a global pandemic put us all in the same boat and I think the UK is going through a tough time at the minute, from people struggling to pay their mortgages or their rent to some people not even being able to afford the cost of butter in Aldi! I think it does affect everyone.
In terms of the original play, our designer has kept some of those 70’s influences and references, but the actual piece has modern-day references and isn’t set in 70’s Italy.
A lot of the play’s changes are down to the writer Marieke Hardy. What changes has she made to the original?
I spoke to Marieke Hardy on Zoom and what an incredible lady she is.
What she wanted to do was make her version, this adaptation, with the women as the heroes and Antonia as the driving force throughout the play.
She’s feisty, she’s fast thinking and she always takes control, what Marieke has done is put her intelligence and maybe even her feistiness into the script.
On the topic of Antonia’s character, her relationship with Giovanni has a lot of similarities with the relationship between Troy and Rose in the August Wilson classic play Fences, both are marriages rooted in division. What do you think about the relationship between Antonia and Giovanni?
Compared to Antonia, Giovanni likes to play safe and abide by the rules, whereas Antonia gets to where she wants to go no matter how she does it. There is a divide, and they have a lot of differing opinions, but in this play that’s where a lot of the comedy comes from. I think Antonia is the power behind the duo, or at least she thinks so.
You’ve had an extensive acting career, what roles, if any, have helped you play Antonia and what are some of your favourite roles from the past?
I’m really lucky, I’ve played a lot of diverse characters in a lot of different genres. I’ve done a lot of comedy with Matt Lucas and David Walliams over the years with the Little Britain career I’ve had, and I’ve learned a lot about comedy from being around them. As an actor, I think you’re always learning in every job you do, and in this play, all the clues about Antonia are in the script, from what other people say about her to what her opinions are.
I’ve done a lot of sitcoms too and it’s nice to bring that into the theatre and be a bit silly.
Having played both theatre and television, do you think theatre is a better medium for a story like this?
I think they’re different. A story like this needs to be told whether it be through theatre or TV, the beauty of the theatre is that it’s live and you go through the entire arc and journey with these people, whereas TV is different.
You’re not in the same room as the characters and it’s episodic, so it’s very different, but I do think the Royal Exchange is a great place to tell this story.
You and the director Bryony Shanahan have worked together a few times now. Is there a dynamic between you two? Is there something you like about how she directs?
I adore her; she is so giving and creates such a safe space in the rehearsal rooms so that you feel free to play and explore and find those little dynamics of the play.
She can give you just one golden nugget which can change your whole delivery for the better. I think she’s an amazing human being and a brilliant director, I’m lucky to be a part of this project with her, she’s one of the best.
As someone who has grown up in Greater Manchester, what are some moments that have shaped your acting career?
Firstly, when I was younger, we went to the Royal Exchange a couple of times, once to see A Taste of Honey and once to see The Glass Menagerie.
I remember sitting there as a student, as a kid, watching this magnificent art unfold in front of my eyes.
That made me realise that acting was what I wanted to do. At the time it was difficult figuring out how to pursue that, but The Royal Exchange was key in doing that, and Coronation Street of course.
Do you have any advice for young people in Manchester who are thinking about pursuing an acting career?
It’s incredibly tough, it’s a really difficult career to pursue, even more so now as people want to be famous because of all the reality shows as opposed to just wanting to be an actor.
However, if you think it’s your vocation and you want to do it, go for it. Trust in it. Believe in it.
There are cheap acting classes that are available for young people and even if you just want to gain confidence and integrate with other people, and figure out if drama is your thing it’s well worth it.
Samantha Power stars as Antonia in NO PAY? NO WAY! Which is at the Royal Exchange from 12th May – 10th June. Tickets can be booked here.