‘Scrounger’ review

Theatre, Drama
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
Scrounger, Finborough Theatre 2020
Photograph: Nick Rutter

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Athena Stevens’s excellent new play is an uncomfortable exploration of the 2015 incident in which an airline trashed her wheelchair

In 2015, Athena Stevens arrived at London City Airport for an early morning flight to Glasgow. But instead of flying to Scotland, Stevens was left on the tarmac to deal with her irrevocably damaged wheelchair that staff had wrecked attempting to fit it in the aircraft’s hold. That cock-up, and the absolute lack of care Stevens received afterwards, left her stranded in her London flat for months without a working wheelchair.

‘Scrounger’, Stevens’s second play, is based on this nightmare scenario and her general encounters with friends and strangers, some nice and some very much not. The playwright and performer is accompanied by Leigh Quinn, her ‘PA’ who jumps between a large number of roles, including the yoga-worshipping boyfriend, the perky idiocy of the recorded help desk voiceover, the ultimately unhelpful solicitor, and so on.

Directed by Lily McLeish, the pacing is a little bit over-quick at times, although to be fair they are doing a huge amount with just two performers. But the brilliance of Stevens’s work is that it directly angles its comments about how disabled people are routinely treated at those lovely, left-leaning, Guardian-reading, petition-signing people most likely to be sitting in the audience (*waves*). It doesn’t, in other words, allow the ‘nice’ people to feel good about themselves by placing the blame on the Tories, the Daily Mail or outdated attitudes. It asks if your well-meaning bullshit is precisely that: bullshit. 

And that’s something so little of the theatre that’s on stage is doing right now. Instead of preaching to the converted and inviting everyone inside for an intellectual circle jerk, it sinks its teeth into the hypocrisies of people who tell themselves they’re doing good without actually doing anything. It’s theatre that’s designed to make you feel properly uncomfortable, and then to do something about that.

By: Rosemary Waugh

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