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Olivia Glover's Review

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

Amie M Marie’s Scrounge is a powerful criticism of the changes to the PIP process which inhibited claimants from receiving vital benefits. The playwright’s personal connection to this issue shone through in her writing, creating a piercing commentary on the injustices within the flawed system of the DWP. Scrounge has a cast of 12 characters, however, focuses primarily on Carol, a disabled woman, Hannah, her daughter and Abby, Hannah’s friend who works as a PIP assessor. The play follows the discrimination and injustices faced by people like Carol in this country as a result of the ableist society we live in and how Carol in particular has to navigate this in her daily life despite the laws which force the public to question and investigate every ‘disabled’ person they encounter. It is clear that the playwrights’ intentions for this play was to act as a condemnation toward the treatment of disabled people by the authorities, this is presented through the journey of each central character- from the details of the struggles of Hannah and Carol to the rigorous training undertaken by Abby by the DWP which force her to obtain this robotic, unsmiling and unforgiving persona of the Assessor. The play forces consumers to recognise the dehumanising treatment toward disabled people who need benefits to get through their life, treating them more as quotas and percentages than human beings and forcing them through unnecessary hardships to prove that they are what society deems to be disabled enough.

Even down to the stage directions, Amie M Marie has written Scrounge in a meticulously detailed way to truly convey a realistic and raw portrayal of Carol’s life. The script is written in a way which doesn’t sugar-coat or glorify the idea of being disabled, the honesty and reality in the words illuminate the lives of people who suffered from the government’s changes. Obvious common themes arise of discrimination, disability, and poverty but they are interwoven with discussion of mortality and morality. The play’s overall message is about the undeserved mistreatment of disabled people and the role which everyone may play in it. It is a complex discussion of British politics and society, and how it caters only to the people that thrive within it, forcing those who don’t benefit to either prove that they need help or leave them to die trying.

This play is highly influenced by the political climate regarding ableism and discrimination in England. Alongside Nadine Dorries, the Employer acts as an allegorical mouthpiece for the flawed British political system, forcing Abby to gradually become a robotic, uncaring assessor who is working to meet quotas rather than a person who is there to help people get the benefits which they desperately need. A line in the play which really stood out to me in this storyline was the Employer’s argument that “if they were in need of P.I.P then they’ll definitely put in a Mandatory Reconsideration request or even take it to tribunal. A different department deals with those. It doesn’t affect our statistics, so it won’t reflect on us” as this really highlights the dehumanising treatment disabled people undergo. A primary issue which stood out to me was that the system makes it as hard as possible for people to claim the necessary benefits as they are more focused on catching people in a lie, prioritising the country’s money rather than the lives of people and demonising disabled people in the process. Abby’s storyline, despite her not being disabled, is incredibly hard-hitting as it shows how easily people can succumb to the discriminatory views of our society. She is obviously very close with Hannah and Carol and has witnessed the devastation caused by the awkwardness of the benefits system, and yet she is still able to be trained and taught to become compliant in that regime. This is impactful to the audience as it forces us to recognise the role we play and how easily we can be influenced by the media and people around us, causing us to consider our actions and words to avoid following the same fate.

Personally, I found the play highly thought-provoking and impactful. As someone who isn’t disabled, this is not an issue which was previously at the forefront of my mind or something I was generally aware of; I knew that there were some problems in who could and couldn’t claim benefits however, Scrounge has enlightened me of this intense struggle people in this county face. The system is horrendously flawed and forces people to fit the mould of someone deemed disabled enough in a process which is dehumanising, unforgiving and oftentimes embarrassing. Amie M Marie writes in a style which is so reflective of everyday conversations which forces the realism to be hard-hitting for all readers and audiences. It brings light to unspoken troubles of the disabled community in a delicate yet intense way, refusing to ignore or disregard any aspect of being a disabled person. This is a play that will stay with me for a long time.