REVIEW: Committee (Donmar Warehouse) ★★★
‘The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee takes oral evidence on Whitehall’s relationship with Kids Company’ (known as “Committee” for short, thank goodness) is a brand new production written by Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, and Hadley Fraser, established actor of both stage and screen. This is Fraser’s writing debut and with Rourke has written the book and lyrics for this show edited from the transcripts of evidence sessions relating to Kids Company hearings in parliament.
Kids Company has made front page news countless times over the last few years with Chief Executive (up to July 2015) Camila Batmanghelidjh instantly recognisable in her eclectic colourful outfits and resilience in questionings over the misuse of government granted funding. Kids Company closed in August 2015, even after a £3 million grant from David Cameron’s government was given despite countless concerns raised over the financial difficulties the charity was encountering each day.
The static set for this production is arranged exactly like the desks at Portcullis House with two desks directly infront for Ms Batmanghelidjh (played by Sandra Marvin) and Mr Alan Yentob (played by Omar Ebrahim) and two television screens behind the panel for the audience to clearly see their faces projected throughout the show, regardless of seat position in the immersive thrust seating of the Donmar Warehouse.
Committee is a play with music, as opposed to a full musical. Because the lyrics are created based on transcripts, there is not a rhyme or clichéd phrase to behold which is strange yet refreshing. These are not catchy tunes and are almost instantly forgettable as there are very few patterns in their composition, but in context, it works superbly.
Committee has the makings of a truly brilliant piece of satire, but this production is still teething. The ensemble of actors playing MPs and Clerks were exceptional, with honourary mention to the formidable Rebecca Lock as Cheryl Gillan MP, stepping into the role with just 24 hours notice and performing with extraordinary promise and confidence. Alexander Hanson as Bernard Jenkin MP commanded the panel with ease and Joanna Kirklands as ‘Clerk’ narrated the show perfectly.
This is a current affairs piece and will be out-dated quite soon, but in the present day with so much political turmoil dominating our news channels and headlines, Committee makes for a powerful piece; sprinkled with moments of humour one might not necessarily expect from a production of this nature.
This one-act show packs a real punch; aided by the intimacy and closeness of the Donmar. I do not doubt ‘Committee’ will develop into a fine satire in good time, but it’s just not quite there yet.
Reviewed by Harriet Langdown
Photo: Manuel Harlan