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Online Theatre Scrounger, Finborough Theatre

Stereotypes sharply challenged in dramatisation of fight against injustice by activist with a disability

THE #FINBOROUGHFORFREE initiative continues apace with a show from one of the west London’s theatre’s playwrights-in-residence.

Inspired by a traumatising ordeal in which she was removed from a flight and had her wheelchair damaged beyond repair, Scrounger tells the full story of Athena Stevens’s fight for justice.  

Adopting the character of Scrounger, Stevens bounces off her multi-roleing sidekick Leigh Quinn — PA as she is referred to in the cast list.

They make an entertaining duo, who bring the detail-laden 26 chapters of the story to life with unbridled imagination.

Stevens has athetoid cerebral palsy and the loss of her wheelchair is a hindrance to her whole existence, leaving her trapped in her Elephant and Castle flat for months on end.

She launches a #DaysWithoutAWheelchair social media campaign which allows her to reach the outside world and take the fight to British Airways.

Eventually garnering tens of thousands of petition signatures, it is an undoubted success.  

That is not to say it comes without struggle. Scrounger’s name is the result of much online abuse and it is often those closest to her, including the insufferably ignorant friend “North London Ally” friend, who let her down.  

But the show does also have issues of its own. Despite Quinn’s best efforts to bring truth to her portrayals of a variety of characters, they often feel like pretty crass stereotypes — the Nigerian Uber driver and the Italian solicitor being just two of the worst examples.

It is disappointing that a show which aims to —  and to its credit, does — break down stereotypes also falls back on them.  

Scrounger is bookended by two monologues which break the fourth wall with piercing immediacy.

Stevens takes aim by directly calling out her audience as “delightfully progressive, Guardian-reading liberals” who have come to see a “borderline freak show.

It’s a challenging intro to a challenging show which just misses its target.  

Available on YouTube until August 31, youtube.com/watch?v=1o8jvP5djME.

 

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