It’s an awfully long title for a very short show. Running at around 80 minutes, and with book and lyrics edited by Hadley Fraser and the Donmar’s Artistic Director Josie Rourke from the transcript of the October 2015 evidence session, this new verbatim musical, otherwise referred to as simply COMMITTEE, is similar in format to the National Theatre’s uplifting celebration of local solidarity in the face of grim tragedy, London Road, but doesn’t quite achieve its impact..
In August 2015, Kids Company (the charity set up in 1996 by the flamboyantly dressed Camila Batmanghelidjh to provide support for deprived inner city children) ceased operations and placed itself in compulsory liquidation. From a south London drop-in centre, the charity had grown to the point where it was receiving millions in government grants and claimed – something disputed here by the committee – to be helping some 36,000 children and young people.
For much of the time, CEO Batmanghelidjh and Omar Ebrahim’s egotistic Alan Yentob (Kids Company’s chair of trustees and, at the time, the BBC’s creative director) face away from the audience, their faces projected large on screens behind the curve of questioning MPs attempting to learn what went wrong when the intention was so obviously good.
They rise to defend their case, operatically and impassionedly, but seem to be speaking a different language from their surprisingly restrained interrogators (Tom Deering’s music reflects the divide). Eliciting a straight answer from either proves impossible.
Well performed by all – including Alexander Hanson’s Bernard Jenkins MP in the chair – it’s interesting though limited by the nature of the verbatim material itself. But Sandra Marvin impresses as the former Woman of the Year whose replies – when being asked to justify giving extravagant £150 handouts for a pair of shoes to boost a child’s self-esteem, or for supporting one individual to the tune of £73, 000 – prove frustratingly evasive – little more, as one MP declares, than “verbal ectoplasm”
Donmar Warehouse, Earlham Street, WC2H 9LX
Tube: Covent Garden
till 12th August 2017
tickets £10 – £40