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Samuel Monk's Review

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

Scrounge is a gripping yet tragic tale by English-based playwright Amie M Marie. Set in the rural county of Hertfordshire, it predominantly follows two storylines: One following Hannah and her mother Carol, a disabled woman aiming to qualify for PIP payments, and Abby, a young and business-minded individual aiming for a well-paying job working for the DWP. The Snoo Wilson shortlisted play tricks you into connecting to these characters; we watch the struggles of Carol’s life as she desperately tries to prove to herself and everyone else that she can live for herself whilst also watching the moral dilemma as Abby must choose between work or her personal beliefs.

 

Throughout the play, these storylines intertwine with each other as Hannah and Abby remain good friends. This is what makes the ending all the more agonising; Abby, too forgiving to the PIP claimants she has seen thus far, is forced to deny all further applications that month, including Carol’s. The play ends with Abby ruthlessly declining Carol’s application without a hint of remorse, the last part of her humanity drained as she becomes yet another dog of the system, a shell without a soul. This pushes Carol over the edge, and, as the play calls back to the beginning by ending with yet another train, the audience is left to decide what Carol is to have done with her own life.

Through the course of the play, the events are surveyed by Dino, a fifty-something man whose background is shrouded in a cloud of mystery. Dino acts as a moral balance withing the play, constantly appearing to deliver thoughts and opinions and yet rarely seen by the characters within the play. Those who do see him understand him as much as the audience do, with Abby even claiming he might have been a god. Dino is an interesting character, and Marie uses him to deliver cryptic ideas on the events in the play. Dino leaves the audience confused and asking many questions. Why does he speak the way he does? Where did he come from, and what happened to him? Why does nobody seem to notice him? Even though Dino is perhaps the most confusing character in the play, he still acts as a comfort for the audience. His extensive knowledge on the abhorrent nature of the DWP illustrates his own experiences with the system, and the audience trust him despite a lack of understanding.

Overall, the story of Scrounge leaves you gripped. There are only four characters who appear regularly, with only a few supporting members needed, allowing small groups of students such as ourselves to work on the play and envision how we ourselves would stage it. The political statements made by the play leave you thinking, and myself being from Hertfordshire with a queer disabled sister it hit incredibly close to home. It delivers some very important messages about the DWP, and I believe that staging it as a group has been an informative experience and a lesson in the hardships that disabled people have to face daily.