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Review of Committee… (A new Musical) at Donmar Warehouse

Sandra Marvin (Camila Batmanghelidjh) and the company in Committee... at the Donmar Warehouse. Photo by Manuel Harlan
Sandra Marvin (Camila Batmanghelidjh) and the company in Committee… at the Donmar Warehouse. Photo by Manuel Harlan

The collapse of Kids Company was a tabloid dream. For twenty years Camila Batmanghelidjh was synonymous with Kids Company, the charity she founded in 1996. When the company folded (just a few days after receiving a 3 million pound government grant) there were recriminations and allegations. How had so much public money been spent on a floundering charity? Was there mismanagement, corruption, incompetence? Batmanghelidjh claimed she was being maliciously discredited and that Kids Company had been subjected to a ‘trial by media.’

Committee subjects ‘how civic life in the UK is governed’ to trial by theatre. That doesn’t sound too thrilling, but Adam Penford directs a classy production. The new musical uses the transcripts from the committee tasked with finding out what exactly went on in Kids Company. It’s a fascinating story and an engaging watch. We’re introduced to our Committee at Portcullis House, they ‘want to learn’ they tell us.

They seem sincere, but it’s very clear they’re career politicians and as much a part of the problem as Yentob and Batmanghelidjh.

Both Batmanghelidjh and Yentob evade and distract. Omar Ebrahim plays Yentob as a man who is affronted that he is even being asked questions. Surely he is above all that. Sandra Marvin’s Batmaghelidjh is brilliantly distracting. Her answers revealing nothing and often confusing the committee even further. ‘A torrent of verbal ectoplasm’ may be a step too far, but she’s very good at tugging on heartstrings rather than accepting responsibility. She seems un-phased by their questions, they simply don’t understand the nature of her work. Observing these two phenomenal ego’s at work is quite something.

Committee isn’t a musical in the traditional sense, it’s more in the vein of London Road. The songs and choral pieces work best when there are synchronised movements from the actors and the feeling that the music and the book support each other. Whether it needed to be a musical is up for debate, but it does allow for some fun. There are some nice comedic moments, to do with shoes and a good joke about the much desired prime slot on Radio 4’s Today show.

Committee is a front row view of how public money was handed out in back room deals to ‘mates’. How even in the moment of accountability there isn’t much. It doesn’t provide answers. But that’s not the intention. Instead, the play is a fascinating and timely study of Ego, governance and the cult of personality.

4 stars

Review by Roz Wyllie

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship with Kids Company Share
Music by Tom Deering
Book and lyrics by Hadley Fraser and Josie Rourke, edited from the transcript of the evidence session

Please note, this production has not been authorised by any participant or Parliament. We present it to you – the public – to consider how civic life in the UK is really governed. It is based on the Parliamentary transcript of the oral evidence session on 15 October 2015 and the words spoken by those participating in the Inquiry.

24 June 2017 – 12 August 2017


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