Committee at Donmar Warehouse review: At last, the musical about parliamentary scrutiny committees we've all been waiting for

Melissa York
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The cast of Committee

If politics is showbusiness for ugly people and the House of Commons is indeed, to borrow Paxman’s phrase, a “green bench pantomime”, then it is logical to try to turn the business of governing into a musical.

But out of all the theatrical goodies Parliament has to offer – PMQs, the State Opening, Black Rod is a musical on his own – they’ve gone for a committee meeting full of backbench bores.

The scale of its ambition is laudable, especially when you consider the full title of this play is The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship with Kids Company. Try singing that without passing out.

It uses a transcript from that meeting, edited down from three hours to one, to create a spiky, contemporary score that sounds like all the least tuneful bits of Sondheim bashed together in a hurry.

It has a stellar cast of character actors, with a particularly compelling performance from Sandra Marvin as Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh. Her pleas, drawn out into operatic arias, are purely emotional, countered by the staccato accusations of the committee, who furiously jab away at spreadsheets.

Once this contrast has been established, however, the play doesn’t have a great deal more to say and simply repeats itself, ad nauseam. We get it, there was a communication problem, you don’t have to make a song and dance about it. But they did, and the results are admirable, if not enjoyable in the slightest.

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