In partnership with Scenesaver, The Finborough Theatre gave a final digital viewing of Scrounger and they plan to continue with monthly releases from their back catalogue to help to raise money to keep the theatre afloat. Scrounger was part of the Vibrant 2019 Festival of Finborough Playwrights and premiered in January 2020. Written by and starring Athena Stevens, the play focuses upon an incident that occurred when Stevens was attempting to travel to Scotland via a flight from London City Airport.
Stevens was born with a condition called ‘athetoid cerebral palsy’ which has meant she needs a special wheelchair to be able to get on with her everyday life.
After booking onto a flight and confirming with British Airways (BA) that they were able to carry her wheelchair, she arrived at the airport and boarded the plane. After a series of messages to the passengers letting them know that the plane had been delayed, the airline chose to announce that the reason for the delay was because of a passenger’s wheelchair not fitting through the doors of the hold and they were trying to find a way to fit it in. They then announced that they definitely could not carry the wheelchair and the plane must wait while BA disembark the wheelchair owning passenger. Stevens was then told that through the sheer incompetency of BA, her wheelchair got damaged during the manoeuvring which meant that her means of mobility had been taken away. After going to the BA ‘hopeless’ desk and lodging her complaint, she is given an Uber home. The words ‘salt’ and ‘wound’ come to mind as her cab driver shares information that where he is from, disabled children are thought to be sent from the devil just to annoy their parents! (Imagine a shocked face emoji here).
We then learn that Stevens’ wheelchair had been prescribed by her Doctor and had cost £30,000 and the company that makes them went bust 3 years ago so getting spare parts will be pretty much impossible.
Not a person who will take this lying down and because she cannot leave her flat independently, Stevens summons the power of twitter as she is getting nowhere with BA or London City Airport. Supported initially by her boyfriend she continues the fight and we see the strength and resilience of her character, that she will not allow the jaws of capitalism to get a grip and chew away her freedom.
The stage setting is simple with a box type structure with white walls which later are illuminated with colour changing lighting and there are windows and a couple of doorways. It denotes the small space of her flat which she is confined to for a considerable period of time due to her loss of independence.
Stevens commands the stage, with Leigh Quinn adeptly supporting with a multitude of different characters to bring this story of corporate negligence and their attempt to dodge culpability, when they were clearly in the wrong. It is a testament to Stevens’ determination to pursue BA and London City Airport, but also to be able to put pen to paper not just for herself, but to help other people who may someday be in the same situation. Theatre can act as a megaphone to call out injustice.
If this production is available again to watch digitally or if it is re-staged in theatreland, it is worth watching just to see what real gumption looks like. https://www.scenesaver.co.uk/
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 31st August 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★