Katherine Pearce is in her element bringing a European premier to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre.

The actress, best known to TV viewers as Kate Connor’s controlling friend Lolly on Coronation Street and the pink haired Amy Spratt on Waterloo Road, is part of the cast of No Pay? No Way! a feisty, funny and fiercely political farce which seems perfectly timed for the current state we’re all in.

It is based on Dario Po’s classic farce which was written almost 40 years ago, reworked by Australian writer Marieke Hardy.

Fed up with rising prices, housewives storm the local supermarket and stack their trollies and flee without paying. Katherine plays Margherita whose solution to hiding the stolen goods is simple - she shoves it into the front of her dress and convinces her husband that she’s pregnant. And that’s just the start of the chaos!

Bury Times: Samantha Power and Katherine Pearce in rehersal for No Pay No Way (Picture: Ella Mayamothi)

“Oh, I love a good farce,” said Katherine. “Some of my favourite times at the theatre have been watching farces like Noises Off and Two Gentlemen of Verona and One Man Two Guvnors. It’s just so joyous; the laughter is just so fun.

“I’ve only appeared in one farce before and that was only for a week but that just gave me a taste for it. I’ve always wanted to do more.

“The thing with it is you get this instant feedback, you know instantly if something has worked or not. In a drama the audience may take it all in but they might not show it outwardly. With a farce you know straight away as hopefully they are just laughing.

“That’s why as a performer it’s really scary doing comedy, far more so than with an emotional piece.”

When Dario Po’s original play Can’t Pay? No Way! was first staged it was seen as being extremely controversial poking fun at the Italian political system. It was also blamed for inspiring Italian housewives to take actions into their own hands to try and beat spiralling prices.

Given the current economic situation, you could argue that this new version is actually more relevant than ever. But Katherine also hopes audiences don’t lose sight of the fact that first and foremost, the play is a riotous comedy.

“We were very lucky to have Marieke who wrote this version speak to us via Zoom during the rehearsal process,” she said. “Her attitude was ‘go for it, just give it some’ which was just what we wanted to hear.

“There is always a question about whether it is right to do a play about a cost of living crisis in the middle of a cost of living crisis. You do wonder are we making fun of the people who are suffering? But she just said ‘no, you’re not, you’re punching up.’ Farce is always about punching up and it was good to have her blessing to go for it. It gave us that empowerment we needed.”

As anyone who has seen farce done well will tell you, the pace and timing is all important. It also makes it exhausting for the cast.

“It’s full on all the time,” said Katherine. “Usually with farce there are a lot of slamming doors but because we’re at the Exchange and the space there it means there are no doors; we have to be much cleverer than that. This means it’s even more physically demanding but we’re all loving it.”

Katherine is delighted to be working at the Exchange.

“I have been here once before with a touring production of Husbands and Sons with the National Theatre,” she said, “but I have never had the opportunity to work on a production from scratch here before.

“But this theatre is so important to me. It’s where I was brought when I was at school. I saw Andrew Garfield in Kes here when I was 16; I saw Will Young, I’ve seen Maxine Peake in several things. When I think of all the times I was brought to see something and how excited I was and how much I wanted to be on that stage. You can imagine what I was like when I was given the opportunity to be in this production.

“My parents will probably say I’ve always had the bug but in part it was down to my drama teacher at school in Newton-le-Willows where I’m from. She fought for us to go to the theatre and when I went my reaction would always be ‘which part would I want to play?’ .The liveness of it still gets me excited today, theatre is intoxicating.”

At a time when public protests and people taking a stand appear to be always in the news, Katherine is aware that No Pay? No Way! could be seen as s rallying call for rebellion.

“You want people to be inspired and be challenged but you don’t want them to go off and get arrested,” she said. “You want then to open their eyes and think of the bigger picture and I hope it does spark more awareness - but no getting arrested please.

“I hope that the immediate reaction people will have is one of euphoria because they have been laughing so much. It might be later when they start to think about the issues which the play raises.

“I do find the whole idea of protest very interesting and sometimes I do think that perhaps we could be perhaps a little bit more French about it and make our feelings known more but I get that can be very difficult.

“But I try to be positive; these things are cyclical and we got through it when the play was first written and hopefully we’ll get through what we’re going through now. But there is also beauty in those hard times or at least you’d hope so.

“Really the whole situation we are in is a farce; all those people ‘up there’ is a farce and this play ridicules that and pokes fun. We are all in on it together. We’re not making fun of the audience but making fun of ‘them’ whoever they are.

“One message to take away is that not being afraid of what people say is an act of rebellion in itself but although you might think that the play is political, it’s just a a bunch of clowns; if you love a laugh come and see it. First and foremost it’s just so very funny.”

No Pay? No Way! Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday, June 10. Details from www.royalexchange.co.uk