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Anna Kibblewhite's Review

Studying Scrounge for a module called "The Director's Handbook" for their Theatre International Baccalaureate, Anna had this to share...

Amie M Marie’s “Scrounge” is an explicit opposition against the faulty and exclusionary Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) presented through the experience of the main character, Carol, an elderly disabled woman who is in desperate need of PIP to provide her with basic financial support. The play explores the injustices faced by disabled individuals such as Carol because of the system’s unfair treatment of their clients. There is an overall assumption that people aim to qualify to receive benefits to avoid upholding a job and therefore benefit from the system. As a result, honest desperate people such as Carol are in a constant battle against an institution promoted as a source of aid, effectively concealing the department’s sense of mistrust towards those who approach them in need of support.

 

Marie narrows her focus on Carol’s experience with the PIP and her unjust struggle to obtain her basic rights as an individual with a debilitating disability. Interestingly, her fight extends to her daughter and carer, Hannah, who, whilst not having experienced a disability first-hand, empathises with the immense suffering and pain that her mother’s ill health has caused her. Furthermore, her admirable dedication to her mother’s care is interfering greatly with the advancement of her own career, as seen in Act 3 when she states that “they’re asking people to take on more hours and of course, I said no”. Carol feels greatly responsible that her daughter must turn down work opportunities and is fearful she is burdening Hannah because of her physical impediment, shedding a light upon the effects that disabilities have on loved ones. In my opinion, this clearly depicts the distress of the disabled individual as a concern for entire families, and as a result, entire communities are being failed by a flawed and self-interested system.

 

In fact, not only does the DWP take advantage of people who are desperately in need of financial security but also of its employers, who are so eager to keep their job and financial stability that they are forced to interact with clients according to their employer’s agenda. We see this occur with Abby, also Hannah’s best friend, who, as the kind and compassionate person she is, is extremely humane in her interaction with clients. However, she is later reminded by her employer that indifference and detachment from the client’s suffering are key in determining whether they are worthy of claiming benefits. As a result, there is a visible change in character as her interaction with clients loses any sign of humanity, clearly depicting the DWP as everybody’s archenemy.

 

I personally found Marie’s writing to be empowering and effective in generating discomfort in the audience, especially in scenes such as Scene 1 of Act 2, when the public assert their opinion so openly as if they didn’t view Carol as a human, but as an inanimate being. I also found that the insertion of non-naturalistic passages enabled the audience to explore the thought processes of the characters and simply generate a piece that overall felt more compelling. In addition, it encouraged the reader to turn to analysis to fully understand the character’s psyche and the political message, very much in a Brechtian-inspired manner. Open to interpretation was also the character of Dino, whose role in the play is very much up to debate, as he speaks with the aura of an all-knowing philosopher. Personally, I believe he represents what could be considered the most concealed disability of all, which is that of mental illness, challenging to recognize and ask for help for. It highlights, in my opinion, the system’s complete disregard for people with such issues.

 

“Scrounge” has enabled me to explore such a wide social issue that I had often disregarded or hadn’t really had the opportunity to encounter before. It is a piece that people should embrace as a wake-up call to implement change so as to benefit not only those who are suffering but contribute to a progressive and forward-looking society.