The full title of Committee, the verbatim musical at Donmar Warehouse, is The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship with Kids Company. The music is by Tom Deering. The book and lyrics by Hadley Fraser and Josie Rourke and edited from the parliamentary transcript.
Kids Company was founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996 to provide practical, emotional and educational support for vulnerable inner city children and young people. It closed in 2015, bankrupt.
The MPs fail to get the charismatic fundraiser (charismatically played by Sandra Marvi) to answer their questions. MP Paul Flynn tweeted the committee was “drowned in a tsunami of Technicolour blancmange, oozing psychobabble, emotional blackmail and verbal ectoplasm.” Much as I enjoyed the singing, it often robs the dialogue of its audibility and sting.
History plays about royalty have always been popular. Corruption and intrigue are good for the box office. Helen Edmundson’s Queen Anne at Theatre Royal, Haymarket, concentrates on the sickly Queen’s disintegrating friendship with the Duchess of Marlborough. The gossiping court and the satirists Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe also have a field day at Anne’s expense, with their vulgar songs and pamphlets. Emma Cunniffe is excellent as Anne; but the play is a chronicle of events rather than a lively drama.
Vivienne Franzmann’s Bodies, at the Royal Court Theatre, tells a powerful story about the human and financial costs of surrogacy. It boasts a big emotional performance by Justine Mitchell and raises and addresses ethical and legal problems, which will keep the audience involved long after the performance has finished.
Gregory Doran, artistic director of the RSC, wanted to see what would happen to Shakespeare’s The Tempest (now at Barbican Theatre) if it had the very latest technology applied to it. The play remains an insubstantial pageant. The high spots are the colours that fill the stage and cyclorama in the masque sequence, with the singing goddesses and dancing nymphs and reapers. Simon Russell Beale has only one truly memorable moment. He roars with such pain when the sprite Ariel (Mark Quartley) shows he is more human, more humane, than Prospero has ever been.
The major problem with Matthew Dunster’s adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, is that it is difficult to know what is going on. All the modern refugee-crisis additions get in Dickens’s way and makes Timothy Sheader’s versatile production unnecessarily long. Nor does it make sense to cast Sydney Carton white and Charles Darnay black when the whole point of the story is they are meant to look so amazingly alike that nobody can tell them apart.
Julian Fellowes’s bland adaptation of Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows at London Palladium is inferior to both Alan Bennett and Will Tucket’s more pastoral versions. The music and lyrics by George Styles and Anthony Drewe are not as good as those they wrote for Half A Sixpence.
At Vaudeville Theatre F Murray Abraham gave a sterling performance in Daniel Kehlmann’s The Mentor, revelling in the sheer Salieri-like nastiness; but he could not save the flawed play.
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