28 January 2020

Scrounger at Finborough Theatre was entertainingly difficult

Scrounger told the story of a woman whose life was severely disrupted by the damage of her wheelchair and her attempts to get recompense. It had good reviews but it did not quite seem like my sort of thing, but it was on at Finborough and I had a Tuesday evening to fill so I paid my £18 and went for it.

A visit to Finborough Theatre these days also means a visit to Cafe du coin in nearby Earls Court Road as it does good food, is great value and has a welcoming atmosphere.

Finborough Arms is above Finborough Arms and I always take advantage of that by having a pint before taking the awkward path up steps and through multiple doors to the theatre. I was amongst the first in so was able to claim a seat in the front row.

Facing me was a three part stage. In the centre, and taking almost all of the space, was a room in a flat in Elephant and Castle, on the right was a small booth that spent most of its time as various offices, and on the left was Islington.

Occupying the flat was the scrounger, Athena Stevens, who wrote the play about an incident that happened to her. Occupying the other spaces and playing all the other roles was Leigh Quinn.

The difficult part of the play started immediately with Athena having a pop at Guardian reading woke people coming to see the play for virtue signalling. There may well have been some truth in that but, either way, getting the audience to question why they were there was a good start.

Athena then told us her story. She narrated some of it with her and Leigh acted out the key scenes. The story was told with humour and carried a strong sense of injustice throughout. It was a David v Goliath story and we were cheering for David, obviously.

There were some nice touches along the way. I particularly liked the ongoing argument between Athena and her friend in Islington as to whether Elephant and Castle is in Central London. Her friend is right, it is not.

The story came to a clear conclusion and while that mattered the journey there mattered more. We all learned something about air travel regulations, what it is like to be lose your mobility, the price f wheelchairs, and the power of social media to build support for a cause and also to draw out the trolls, "scrounger" is what Athena was called by some for just wanting her damaged wheelchair to be repaired or replaced.

The difficulty was always there because of the subject matter and the unapologetic way that Athena addressed it full on and that tension added to the drama. Add to that the considerable humour and the excellent performances and you had a play well worth seeing and another boost for Finborough Theatre's deserved reputation.

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