A watchable musical that adds little to the debate on Kids Co

Rebecca Cooney reviews The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall's Relationship With Kids Company

Sandra Marvin shines as Camila Batmanghelidjh, appearing before MPs in committee
Sandra Marvin shines as Camila Batmanghelidjh, appearing before MPs in committee

"This is not a show trial," Bernard Jenkin declared at the opening of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee hearing in to the closure of Kids Company in November 2015.

Eighteen months on and the irony of those words is not lost on the audience when Alexander Hanson sings them during the musical adaptation at the Donmar Warehouse of the select committee hearing into the children's charity.

Much of the dialogue and lyrics, by Hadley Fraser and Josie Rourke, are lifted verbatim from the transcript of the hearing, which sought to understand the circumstances behind the charity's sudden and chaotic closure.

The musical starts with an explanation of the committee's soft power and a sly dig at the MPs who are secretly hoping to produce a hearing so juicy that they land the coveted 8.10am interview slot on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

It then moves on to the main event, the questioning about the charity's spending and practices. Highlights include Hanson's Jenkin bickering with Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh, played by Sandra Marvin, and the charity's chair, Alan Yentob, played by Omar Ebrahim, being told to stop name-dropping only to mention Oliver Letwin, David Cameron and several other prominent figures in the following sentence.

Marvin particularly shines in the role of Batmanghelidjh, executing both a strong vocal and comedy performance as the colourful charity founder.

Ebrahim is less true-to-life as Yentob. His performance comes across as too grandiose and, at points, he slips from smooth-tongued into slimy.

What emerges is a charity trying its utmost to support young people and help address state failings, but whose unconventional methods and its approach to financial management ultimately led to its closure. It is not enough to do good; you must do good well.

All of this will be familiar ground to those in the charity sector and, though the production is deftly staged and eminently watchable, it's difficult to see what it adds to the debate.

Donmar Warehouse, London, until 12 August

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