Did the critics get on board with Committee?
In the light of the Grenfell Tower disaster, Committee offered a chance to question both social inequality and the role of local authorities, but did it succeed?
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
"The questions raised by Committee have gained additional and gripping resonance in the light of the Grenfell Tower fire, when the willingness of local authorities to cut loose whole sections of a community has been hauled into sharp and terrifying focus."
"As the brightly-clothed Batmanghelidjh, a slow moving mountain of colour and pattern, Sandra Marvin combines a glorious singing voice with a carefully calibrated impersonation of one of the most distinctive figures in public life. As Yentob, Omar Ebrahim is equally fine voiced, but perhaps his background in opera makes him hard to read; the character, though prompting ready laughter in the audience, remains opaque. In the end, for all its topicality, Committee... reveals the limitations of verbatim theatre as well as its strengths. It is smart but essentially undramatic."
Alice Jones, i
"The beauty of making [Batmanghelidjh and Yentob] sing their impassioned speeches about "catastrophically abandoned children" and "Michael Gove believed in this charity" means that we see both their emotional investment in the work they did, but also their own slightly demented belief in their intoxicating power to persuade – Batmanghelidjh with her magnetic, mystical presence, Yentob with his extraordinary network of powerful connections. But the music never really makes a case for itself – neither memorable, nor essential."
"The story of Kids Company is vital – one that goes to the heart of social inequality and the establishment in this country. In the wake of Grenfell Tower, it is arguably precisely the kind of material theatre should be exploring. But, at 80 minutes, and rigidly confined inside a bland committee room, it sells its material short. Like Kids Company, [it's] a fine idea that simply does not work in practice."
Ann Treneman, The Times
"Order! Order! That's Bernard Jenkin, the Tory MP who can cut quite a dash when he wants to. At one point when I was sketchwriting, I saw him as a sort of Hollywood manqué. How thrilled he must be to find himself being played by an actor (Alexander Hanson) in this new musical about his parliamentary committee. The only problem? It's about as interesting as the real thing."
"I'm both impressed and appalled that this musical has been made — and with such precision too. The complicated sung-through harmonies are by Tom Deering. The script and lyrics, all taken verbatim from evidence, have been shaped by Hadley Fraser and Josie Rourke (who is also the artistic director of the Donmar). "We want to learn," the five MPs sing in unison (although, in real life, they would never do anything in unison). "We want to learn... We want to learn, learn, learn, learn, learn," sing the MPs as the session drags on. Some of us just wanted it to end."
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
"The Donmar Warehouse, under artistic director Josie Rourke, prides itself on forensic scrutiny of political events, and this 80-minute show's musings on social care and notions of accountability are absorbingly topical. The central figures are the charity's founder Camila Batmanghelidjh, a passionate advocate on behalf of troubled and traumatised children, and Alan Yentob, the chair of her board of trustees. They make a flamboyant pair — at times appearing bewilderingly out of touch with economic realities, but attuned to the needs of vulnerable young people. The panel of MPs, suspicious of this duo's maverick spirit, is led by Bernard Jenkin. Played by Alexander Hanson as a single-minded opponent of anything that sounds even faintly touchy-feely, he resembles a well-groomed but relentlessly fierce badger."
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
"Adam Penford's production does raise timely questions about how we view charity in our society – who is deserving of it and to the tune of how much – and it's a reminder, if one were needed, that our leaders have a dismayingly poor grasp of the psychological impact of inescapable poverty. The voices that are most glaringly absent, as the production at least acknowledges, are those of the clients, the children, already at risk, who have lost yet another safety net."
Committee runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 12 August.