Dario Fo is one of the most celebrated European satirists of the 20th century. His work is still politically incendiary, taking on establishment figures and religious authority groups. So it’s bold indeed of Johnny McKnight to take on his 1974 play, and transpose it from Italy to contemporary Glasgow.
This iteration traces the uprising of two disgruntled supermarket workers, outspoken Toni (Julie Wilson Nimmo) and dimwit best friend Maggie (Sally Reid).
When the whole store goes on a shoplifting rampage, due to poor contract decisions by management, the lengths the women go to to hide their spoils from their respective husbands Gio (Gavin Wright) and Louis (Thierry Mabonga) play out in ridiculous farce. The twist is of course, that said men are also stealing from their work.
There are some jokes that fly (the usual McKnight wordplay, with its emphasis on working class Glasgow people and skewering of pop culture) but some that don’t (crude Italian stereotypes, a misjudged sexual consent joke) but worse still is Wilson Nimmo’s performance. Her character is very shrill and one dimensional, and becomes increasingly grating.
It’s a shame, because there are some lovely moments (great surreal visual gags at the start making great use of Jessica Brettle’s kitsch domestic set) and sweet performances by Wright and Reid as the two more infinitely likeable characters.
Itxaso Moreno is elegant and light on her feet as a Sergeant, and other oddballs, but rather lacks the physical comedy chops.
A polemical speech by Wilson Nimmo at the end about one in three families in Glasgow living in poverty, while impossible to argue with, brings a gravitas lacking elsewhere and doesn’t really feel earned.
The Smiths once sang, ‘Shoplifters Of The World Unite’; this is more a ‘Vicar In A Tutu’, a shade too broad, akin to the misfiring sketch show from McKnight and others from 2015, ‘News Just In’. But its heart is in the right place, and there are a few uproarious scenes.
At Tron Theatre until May 11th, then a community tour continues until May 31st.