Bishop's Stortford playwright Amie M Marie's latest work, Scrounge, to be turned into BBC Radio production
A young Bishop's Stortford writer has secured the adaptation of her latest play for a BBC Radio production.
Former Birchwood High School and Herts & Essex High School student Amie M Marie's Scrounge is a story about the unfairness of the benefits system on disabled people and was short-listed for the Snoo Wilson Award when she wrote it in 2018.
Now it has been picked up by Richard Hand – professor in media practice at the University of East Anglia's (UEA) School of Art, Media and American Studies, who has worked as a writer, director and performer for theatre and radio – who is creating it for radio. A cast is in place and it is expected to be aired first on BBC Radio Norfolk and Suffolk.
The script is also being adapted for a stage production in Norwich later this year by director Zanna Foley-Davies.
Scrounge is Amie's second foray into writing a play – her first, political satire The Play About Theresa May, received critical acclaim and went on to be studied by Hockerill Anglo-European College students sitting their theatre International Baccalaureate last year.
Scrounge will be launched on Monday (January 10) and will be available through Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble and independent book shops.
Amie, 25, who admits to writing "not very happy plays", says Scrounge is based on welfare assessments of disabled people in the UK. While she does not have personal experience of claiming disability benefits, despite suffering from her own "non-visible disabilities", she has helped others through the system.
"This is about the experience of being a disabled person and the way our country works where every couple of years you have to reapply and prove again that you're disabled," she said.
"It's a really draining process with the added pressure of having to go in person, meet a stranger and say 'I'm disabled' and then they quiz you as to whether or not you're lying. It's a very hurtful experience.
"The script takes you around that process from the perspective of someone who has joined as a processor. It is a staged cross-section and invites you to think 'Is this fit for purpose?'
"It's my way of showing people and saying 'Do you think this is the kindest way we could be doing this?' It's people who are already on the disabled list who are still having to come back with conditions that aren't going to go away and it's really emotional for them."
The story centres on Abby, who applies for a well-paid job assessing Personal Independence Payment claimants on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Carol is disabled and must apply to the DWP for welfare.
Amie says: "It starts off just being a job and Abby's sure she can help people and is really sympathetic, but if the box is a simple yes or no, what can she do? She's a bit trapped by the system too.
"For the people employed and the people using it, the entire system isn't doing anyone any favours and Abby ends up just feeling horrible. It's about transporting people into a situation they've never thought about before through the power of theatre."
Amie lives in Oriole Way on the Bishop's Gate estate and grew up in Stortford, attending Hillmead Primary, then Birchwood and switching to Herts and Essex for sixth-form studies.
She graduated from UEA with a first-class degree in scriptwriting and performance, having gone from writing only descriptive text and "not being able to write dialogue".
She said: "I loved reading as a kid and had this silly notion, what if I ran out of books? I thought, if every person who reads a book writes a book we'll never run out, so I spent a lot of my childhood writing young adult fiction, but I was terrible at dialogue.
"So I decided to do a drama degree which was all about dialogue and went from writing all description, prose and poetry to writing for the stage."
Amie is also an actress and comedian. She took on the title role in her own play about Theresa May while the production toured, appearing for a week at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018. She published the play in 2021 – a compilation of two very different scripts of it, plus reviews and reflections.
Aime can be followed on Facebook or via her Twitter account @Aimemariamarie