by Athena Stevens
7 January - 1 February 2020
“And I don’t know how to engage,
With people of the wrong side of justice,
That can’t be bothered to tell their left
From what’s right. ”
The world premiere
★★★★ Four Stars, Time Out
★★★★ Four Stars, London Living Large
★★★★ Four Stars, Close-Up Culture
★★★★ Four Stars, Reviewsgate
★★★★ Four Stars, The Spy in the Stalls
★★★★ Four Stars, The Upcoming
★★★★ Four Stars, A Younger Theatre
★★★★ Four Stars, London Pub Theatres
★★★★ Four Stars, Breaking the Forth Wall
★★★★ Four Stars, The Londonist
The Stage – Top Five Theatre Shows
Time Out – Show of the Week
London Pub Theatres Standing Ovation Nomination
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Supporting Performance In A Play – Leigh Quinn
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Lead Performance in a Play – Athena Stevens
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Sound Design – Julian Starr
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for New Play
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Director – Lily McLeish
OffWestEnd Award Nomination for Lighting Design – Anthony Doran
The first production of the Finborough Theatre’s 40th anniversary year, the world premiere of Finborough Theatre Playwright in Residence and Olivier Award nominee Athena Stevens’s new play.
On the streets of Elephant and Castle, everyone likes to make speculations about Scrounger. She needs help, she must not be aware of the complexities of the world, she is sent from the demons to torture her mum… at least according to her Nigerian Uber driver.
Scrounger doesn’t care. A successful online personality, she’s got more power from her bedroom than anyone on the Southwark estates could dream of. She’s educated, she’s ballsy, and with a huge network of online allies, Scrounger is a woman who knows how to make change happen.
That is, until an airline destroys her wheelchair.
Inspired by real events and a lawsuit initiated by Stevens herself, Scrounger drives towards the realities of how Britain is failing its most vulnerable and the extreme cost paid by those seeking justice.
Originally seen as part of Vibrant 2019 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, Scrounger now receives its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre.
BSL performance 28 January
The performance on Tuesday 28 January will be BSL interpreted by Anna Kitson who will stand in a visible position and interpret the spoken and heard elements of the play.
Relaxed performance 26 January
The matinee on Sunday 26 January will be a relaxed performance, designed to welcome audience members who will benefit from a less formal theatregoing experience. This might include people with learning disabilities, movement disorders, those with young babies, or people with Tourettes. There will be a more laid-back approach to noises or movement coming from the audience, and audience members can come and go as they please throughout the performance. To this end, the house lights will remain on, at a low level, throughout, and music and sound effects will be quieter than usual. Please note that these shows are for anyone. You may wish to attend a relaxed performance, either as an access requirement or because you would prefer a more informal and inclusive experience of watching the play.
Wheelchair Accessible Post Show Discussion 15 January
Join us after the performance of Scrounger on Wednesday 15 January for a post show discussion in the Finborough Arms pub. The event is free to attend to ticket holders of that night’s performance and people with access needs that preclude them from seeing the show. Producer Sarah Lawrie will lead a post show talk back with Scrounger playwright Athena Stevens and her friend Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, a junior doctor, BMA Council member, and gender and disability campaigner, named on the Shaw Trust’s 2018 and 2019 ‘Power List’ of of the Most 100 Most Influential Disabled People in the UK. Hannah and Athena will discuss why Scrounger is being presented in a wheelchair inaccessible venue, and answer questions.
Post Show Discussion 22nd January
Join us after the performance on Wednesday 22nd January for a post show discussion. The event is free to ticket holders for that evening’s performance of the play. Producer Sarah Lawrie will lead a conversation with Scrounger playwright Athena Stevens, the Chair of campaigning organisation 38 Degrees Srabani Sen OBE and the Personal Finance Editor of The Mail on Sunday Jeff Prestridge. Athena, Srabani and Jeff will talk about the play in the context of consumer rights and ‘taking on the system’, and answer audience questions.
Post Show Discussion 29th January
Join us after the performance on Wednesday 29th January for a post show discussion. The event is free to ticket holders for that evening’s performance of the play. Producer Sarah Lawrie will lead a post show talk back with Scrounger director Lily McLeish, actress and former Vice President of Equity’s Deaf and Disabled Members Committee Cindy-Jane Armbruster, award-winning barrister and disability discrimination expert John Horan and West End theatre director Simon Evans, who recently directed Athena in Peter Nichols’ A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. Lily, Cindy, John and Simon will talk about the play in the wider context of representing disability on stage, and answer audience questions.
About the Playwright Athena Stevens
Playwright Athena Stevens returns to the Finborough Theatre where she is a Playwright in Residence, and wrote and performed in the Olivier nominated world premiere of Schism. She is an associate artist at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. She is currently writing the book for a new musical, and is under commission for the National Youth Theatre. She was the first actor in a wheelchair nominated for an OffWestEnd Award for her performance in Schism, as well as appearing at the Barbican Theatre as Juliet last year. Her radio plays include Reluctant Spirit (BBC Radio 3). Stevens is also a spokesperson for the UK’s Women’s Equality Party.
About the Director Lily McLeish
Director Lily McLeish is a creative fellow of the Royal Shakespeare Company, long-term Associate Director to Katie Mitchell on productions across Europe, and director of Fizzy Sherbet, a new writing initiative for women playwrights. She is currently opening While You Are Here by Eve Leigh, a new play for dance with choreographer Jonathan Goddard for DanceEast and The Place. Direction includes Schism by Athena Stevens (Park Theatre), The White Bike (The Space), Unlocked (Glenside Hospital Museum and alldaybreakfast, Bristol), A Colder Water Than Here, awarded the Origins Award for Outstanding New Work (The Vaults), Three Lives (Fringe Arts Bath), Housekeeping (Southwark Playhouse), Absence (The Young Vic), This Despised Love (Royal Shakespeare Company Fringe), Old Times (Artheater Cologne), Footfalls (Severins-Burg-Theater, Cologne). Recent work as Associate Director include Orlando (Schaubühne Berlin), Norma Jeane Baker of Troy (The Shed, New York), Bluets (Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg), La Maladie de la Mort (Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris), Anatomy of a Suicide (Royal Court Theatre), Ophelias Zimmer (Schaubühne Berlin and Royal Court Theatre). Based now in the UK and Germany, Lily graduated from the University in Cologne with a first class honours degree in English Literature and Art History, where she also trained with theatre company Port in Air.
The Press on Scrounger
“A stimulating, challenging evening it makes an admirable opening to the theatre’s fortieth season…a terrific polemic.” William Russell, Reviewsgate
“In many ways Scrounger does for disability what Fairview does for the white, liberal gaze on race. It is unashamedly provocative; justifiably angry.” Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor
“Athena Stevens’s excellent new play…provocative, smart and calls out its liberal audience...and that’s something so little of the theatre that’s on stage is doing right now. Instead of preaching to the converted…it sinks its teeth into the hypocrisies of people who tell themselves they’re doing good without actually doing anything.” Rosemary Waugh, Time Out
“Some great moments of humour and two cracking performances.” Andrew Curtis, London Pub Theatres
“Scrounger is gut-wrenching. It’s memorable. It’s made to generate discomfort so that change can ensue. It’s made to make a difference, for the many and not the few.” Ghazaleh Golpira, The Upcoming
“A notable step ahead in terms of representation and the tackling of a major issue.” Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World
“A central theme of the play is conflict and the inherent privilege of being able to avoid it.” Flora Doble, The Spy in the Stalls
“A devastating kick in the teeth to liberal minded charity marathon running politically left wing inclined Guardian readers, British Airways and badly drafted well-intentioned but useless European Union legislation.” William Russell, Reviewsgate
“Much like a Restoration comedy, the public will recognise many of the things that occur in the play, satirising the status quo yet making serious points about society.” Michael Davis, Breaking the Fourth Wall
“Challenging, thought provoking and welcome. Food for thought. As a nation, we continue to fail the most vulnerable, whether it’s the elderly or the disabled.” Jeff Prestridge, Close-Up Culture
“Scrounger refuses to pander to the audience and will leave them questioning themselves afterwards.” Andrew Curtis, London Pub Theatres
“It is brave to make a play whose central plot line is a broken wheelchair and an EU regulation. But laws are about people and this story is about the burning injustice – and powerlessness – that Scrounger is left to feel.” Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
“As an insight into a member of society failed by systemic stupidity and social illiteracy, it’s relevant, as well as dryly funny – the right kind of funny in a stone-faced world.” Ed Whitfield, View From The Cheap Seat
“Athena Stevens’ latest play is full of quiet fury.” JN Benjamin, The Stage
“It’s an impassioned – and provocative – piece of work.” Jeff Prestridge, Close-Up Culture
“A courageous and emotional piece of utmost honesty.” Ghazaleh Golpira, The Upcoming
“A great example of a play that does not appeal to our human desire for resolution, but instead rightly demonstrates that the fight for true equality and justice is far from over.” Flora Doble, The Spy in the Stalls
“Stevens aims for the jugular with a straight-shooting political touch.” Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World
“An exciting and angry piece of storytelling that puts you in her shoes.” Paul Ewing, The Londonist
“No one is spared from the force of nature that is Stevens.” Jeff Prestridge, Close-Up Culture
“Passionate storytelling.” Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World
“There is no doubt that Stevens has an important voice in the disability debate.” Rob Warren, Everything Theatre
“It's Scrounger's most vulnerable moments that reveal the heart of the matter.” Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World
“Stevens is a detailed storyteller, and she expertly covers the everyday ordeals that people with disabilities face.” Paul Ewing, The Londonist
“Stevens…succeeds in making the audience consider how they too may just be another cog in the flawed machine.” Flora Doble, The Spy in the Stalls
“Athena Stevens delivers a splendid kick in the teeth to Guardian reading, Daily Mail hating, Oxfam giving folk in Scrounger at the Finborough.” William Russell, Reviewsgate
“The brilliance of Stevens’s work is that it directly angles its comments about how disabled people are routinely treated at those lovely, left-leaning, Guardian-reading, petition-signing people most likely to be sitting in the audience.” Rosemary Waugh, Time Out
“A great demonstration of Stevens' writing ability, championing a topic on which we clearly have a long way to go.” Rob Warren, Everything Theatre
“Her voice rings out loud, true and scathing as she digs the dirt on the congratulatory liberal frame of mind.” Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor
“She takes no prisoners as she calls out "woke culture" and the well-meaning people who actually get it very wrong and refuse to acknowledge it.” Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World
“Playwright Athena Stevens is one ballsy individual. She’s not scared of anyone or anything. Attitude and anger course through her veins.” Jeff Prestridge, Close-Up Culture
“This is clever, distinctive art and Stevens deserves credit for being willing to mine her personal story for inspiration despite, as she points out, the reality that less disadvantaged actors and writers are rarely called on to do this.” Simon Gwynn, Exeunt
“It would be easy to read Scrounger as a simple David and Goliath story. But writer and performer Athena Stevens makes it far more interesting than that.” Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor
“A great piece of writing.” Rob Warren, Everything Theatre
“Her address is human and personal, detailing her everyday issues with wit and fire.” Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World
“Great comic moments.” Rob Warren, Everything Theatre
“She says what might just at the very moment be running through our “Guardian-reading, Daily Mail-hating, Oxfam-giving, colour blind-seeing, red voting, paper straw using, conflict avoiding, zen loving, feminist supporting, always for the few…” liberal minds. It is an exhilarating moment, fully alive. Throughout, Stevens is less perky in pink as lethal in pink.” Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor
“We came away richer for seeing Athena's play and, especially, her stunning performance.” David Saxon Jones, London Living Large
“It's all told with humour, warmth and a healthy amount of outrage.” Paul Ewing, The Londonist
“The irony is not lost on us that in taking up centre stage Stevens’ Scrounger is the most powerful person in the room, and yet the story she tells is of how she and other disabled people are rendered powerless.” Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor
“Stevens’ performance is subtle and moving in her monologues of despair…she contrasts these moments with her knack for physical comedy.” Nina Cave, A Younger Theatre
“The evening belongs to the incomparable Athena Stevens.” David Saxon Jones, London Living Large
“Athena Stevens…is beguiling.’ William Russell, Reviewsgate
“Stevens narrates her experiences with an enjoyably dry wit.” Simon Gwynn, Exeunt
“She manages to sit on the front of the stage and tug our heartstrings to breaking point.” David Saxon Jones, London Living Large
“Though tragic in parts, the production capitalises on its comedic elements as well, especially through Quinn’s multiple character portrayals.” Ghazaleh Golpira, The Upcoming
“The equally excellent Leigh Quinn, plays a multitude of roles. Her dizzying range of accents and personas help to convey the story and keep the narrative moving.” Andrew Curtis, London Pub Theatres
“Leigh Quinn…cleverly playing a truly astonishing range of other characters.” David Saxon Jones, London Living Large
“Leigh Quinn dextrously performs multiple characters.” Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
“Played impressively by the very energetic Leigh Quinn.” Keith McKenna, British Theatre Guide
“Quinn’s talent for multi-roling and aptitude for accent and dialect is remarkable.” JN Benjamin, The Stage
“Quinn is very funny.” William Russell, Reviewsgate
“Leigh Quinn…brings a pleasing satirical comic edge to an almost Hogarthian collection of characters.” Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor
“Leigh is tremendous, and often very funny.” David Saxon Jones, London Living Large
“Quinn's tour de force, who runs in an acting extravaganza.” Cindy Marcolina, Broadway World
“The excellent Leigh Quinn.” JN Benjamin, The Stage
“A delightfully non-realist staging here from director Lily McLeish and designer Anna Reid.” Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
“Director Lily McLeish, designer Anna Reid and sound designer Julian Starr ensure that the 100 minutes has a spikey, surreal Kafkaesque quality.” Lyn Gardner, Stagedoor
“It is a great concoction of strong performance, lighting and direction.” Nina Cave, A Younger Theatre
“Excellent sound, lighting and an interesting minimalist set all add immensely to the performance.” David Saxon Jones, London Living Large
“All enhanced by Julian Starr’s effective music, Anthony Doran’s lighting, and Anna Reid’s minimalist set.” Jeff Prestridge, Close-Up Culture
“Julian Starr’s impressively inventive sound design makes it all the more engaging.” JN Benjamin, The Stage
The Press on Schism at the Finborough Theatre
“It has a palpable authenticity... a testament to the drive and willpower of disabled people.” Michael Billington, The Guardian
“Refreshing honesty….remarkable...both candid and brave.” The Reviews Hub
“Schism is inspired by the social mobility difficulties faced by those who are impaired, but it also deals with the compelling, universal and cosmic themes of success and failure, love and duty, vision and its oppression.” Exeunt Magazine
“The world needs authentic stories about disability, and ‘Schism’ is as authentic as they come.” Time Out
“Beautiful writing, funny bits and great performances.” London Pub Theatres
“Drawing on her own experiences of life with cerebral palsy, Athena Stevens gives a hugely committed performance in this engaging two-hander about expectation and ambition…offers a seldom seen perspective on lives which are too often overlooked and stereotyped.” The Stage
“Stevens gives Katherine compelling vitality: she’s opinionated, angry and funny... Its gutsy heroine is hard to resist.” The Times
“Stevens’ characters are ferociously well observed, defying lazy assumptions or easy categorisation.” The Stage
“As the writer-actor of Schism, Stevens has a unique insight into both characters. She seems to pour real life experience into the story yet not make the play one-dimensionally centred on her disability.” A Younger Theatre
The Press on Director Lily McLeish's Revival of Schism at the Park Theatre
“One of the best pieces of theatre I have seen.” ★★★★★ Musical Theatre Musings
“Stunning, candid and compelling.” ★★★★ Stage Review
“Schism offers a deeply human and refreshing take on the power play at the heart of our relationships.” ★★★★ Theatre-News
“Stevens isn’t afraid to make her audience squirm and her play is all the more powerful for it.” ★★★★ Radio Times
The Press on The Online Release of Scrounger
★★★★ Four Stars, The Upcoming
★★★★ Four Stars, The Arts Desk
★★★★ Four Stars, The Reviews Hub
“During the current pandemic, stories about isolation have a particular resonance…One of the most prescient is Athena Stevens’s Scrounger.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“More contemporary in a way that could not possibly have been imagined when the play was first conceived.” John Chapman, 2nd From Bottom
“A punchy and powerful tale of tolerance, quick wit and determination.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“Make an early date to view if you are going to… and you should.” John Chapman, 2nd From Bottom
“Works to shed light on the difficulties that many members of the disabled community face on a daily basis. It is a story that demands to be heard – and rightly so.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“Avant-garde in its concerns, advancing a woefully belated discussion about making people with disabilities welcome in the theater both as audiences and artists.” Jesse Green, The New York Times
“An impassioned autobiographical account.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“Scathing.” Maryam Philpott, The Reviews Hub
“Beautifully conveys both its modernistic aesthetic and its emotional and political charge.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“[Stevens] challenges her audience not just to feel sympathy, but maybe to actually do something to help people with disabilities. At the end, the distinct feeling of visceral discomfort is surely proof that her intention has been realised.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“Stevens is disarmingly frank.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“Hugely entertaining.” Maryam Philpott, The Reviews Hub
“An aptly hard watch, but…effective and clear in its politics and punchy in its delivery.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“Hilarious.” John Chapman, 2nd From Bottom
“Athena Stevens…is a real force of nature.” John Chapman, 2nd From Bottom
“Athena Stevens is no stranger to provocative storytelling.” Maryam Philpott, The Reviews Hub
“Stevens is magnetic, a masterful storyteller on both the page and the stage.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“Stevens’ message is loud and clear: if you think you’re a good person, you’re probably not, and what are you really going to do about it?” Maryam Philpott, The Reviews Hub
“Written with acute meta-theatrical wit.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“The audience are harangued for their smug complacency and lack of real empathy. These extraordinary moments are calculated to shock – and they do.” John Chapman, 2nd From Bottom
“Though the play has moments of great comedy, they are swiftly followed by moments of great discomfort…It holds you accountable, and encourages you to find a way to change the narrative…not necessarily an easy watch, but perhaps an essential one.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“Charismatic and raw performance.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“The pair perform brilliantly together.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“Stevens, the first actor in a wheelchair nominated for an Offie, performs her story brilliantly.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“Stevens is an engaging storyteller, navigating between the roles of writer and performer with ease.” Maryam Philpott, The Reviews Hub
“Great support from Quinn.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
“Co-star Leigh Quinn brilliantly portrays a mammoth cast.” Maryam Philpott, The Reviews Hub
“The brilliant Leigh Quinn.” John Chapman, 2nd From Bottom
“Leigh Quinn, whose talent is clearly demonstrated in her apt ability to multi-role.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“A powerful story, bolstered by interesting staging and lighting design.” Abbie Grundy, The Upcoming
“Staged with a bright, almost cartoon-like style by Lily McLeish and designer Anna Reid, helped by great sound and lighting by Julian Starr and Anthony Doran.” Aleks Sierz, The Arts Desk
Athena Stevens is a Playwright on Attachment at the Finborough Theatre, where her productions as actor and writer have included Scrounger as part of Vibrant 2019 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, Genie as part of Vibrant 2015 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights and Schism (which subsequently transferred to the Park Theatre). For her work on Schism, Athena was nominated for an OffWestEnd Award for Best Female Performance in a Play and an Olivier Award. Athena Stevens is a writer, performer and director. She is a Creative Council member and Associate Artist at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Writing includes Reluctant Spirit (BBC Radio 3) and Hello to the Trolls, a new commission from the National Youth Theatre. She is a BBC Writers Access Group member, a former writer on attachment with the National Theatre Studio and recently completed a screen version of her series Recompense as part of the Channel 4 Screenwriters Programme.
Acting includes understudying for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (Trafalgar Studios), Juliet in Redefining Juliet (Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre) and Lady Macbeth (RADA).
Writing and acting her own work includes The Amazing Vancetti Sisters (Tristan Bates Theatre) and Dark Night of The Soul (Shakespeare’s Globe).
Forthcoming productions include directing and curating Notes to the Forgotten She-Wolves (Sam Wanamaker Season 2020 at Shakespeare’s Globe). Film and Television include the feature documentary Day of Small Things (Channel 4), the short film The Conference (BBC) and three web series for YouTube.
She is currently launching the self-advocacy platform Make Your Own Damn Tea, is a Huffington Post contributor and is completing her first non-fiction book. Athena is also a TEDx speaker, and Equality in the Media Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party.
Born in Chicago, she now lives in London. Athena was born with athetoid cerebral palsy.
Trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Theatre includes The Crucible, A Little Night Music (Storyhouse, Chester), Troilus and Cressida, Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II, Henry V, The Famous Victories of Henry V, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Royal Shakespeare Company), Pride and Prejudice (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park), The Low Road (Royal Court Theatre) and Dancing at Lughnasa (Tobacco Factory, Bristol).
Television and Film includes Ye Sweeney, Case Histories, Shakespeare Live!, Three Lives, Best of Men and 8 Minutes Idle.
7 January - 1 February 2020
Tickets and Times
Approximately one hour 40 minutes with no interval