Monthly Archives: July 2017

DESSERT Southwark Playhouse SE1

FINE DINING AND FINANCIAL FURY

 

Piquant idea, to open Oliver Cotton’s play about financial inequality in BBC Salary Embarrassment Week.  While the inequity between multi-million popinjays and mere 149k losers in the weird world of showbiz is perhaps not especially  worth angsting about, there were nice resonances.

 

For it’s a good subject: Cotton is having a spirited pop at the Philip Green fatcat amassers of money, and especially the asset-strippers who leave investors broke like the antihero Hugh – who is Michael Simkins, always a treat. Trevor Nunn’s production (so soon after his latest Rattigan) wins another lovely drawing-room-play design – all Farrow& Ballish with old masters which are part of the plot tastefully framed in elegant white mouldings against fashionably duckshit-green walls. At a selfconsciously posh dinner table we meet two couples – Hugh and lady Gill (Alexandra Gilbreath) entertaining American friends, who are played by Stuart Milligan and Teresa Banham with a nice annoying edge. They are contacts in the murky world of enormous investments . Milligan has less to do, but as the trophy-wife Meredith, Ms Banham navigates hilariously from being a defiant ignorama droning on about some ridiculous Blairish spiritual healing in South America, through a brief hysteria to display in the crisis an unexpected rather likeable solidity. Which is more than can be said for Graham Turner, who does a splendid turn as a burnt-out City maths genius turned herb-cookery nut and butler. He has become Hugh’s loyal factotum and has, as it turns out, a remarkable gift for making disasters even worse.

 

 

 

For a disaster is what the evening rapidly becomes. One hesitates to offer spoilers, but you should at least know that “Dessert” is a joke: they never get to the pudding because a young man in camo gear breaks in with a gun to lecture them on the evils of undeserved wealth (desert, geddit?) .  He has come make threats and demands which fatcat Hugh (Simkins rather splendidly drawing a tiny bit of sympathy from some of us) won’t meet.

 

 

 

It certainly keeps you watching, Nunn’s direction is sharp, and gunshots and other surprises come just when you aren’t quite expecting them. But Cotton’s play has one serious flaw: it puts an unreasonable weight on the tough young intruder Eddie, played as well as he could be by Stephen Hagan. It is an unusual, if not incredible, portrait of a self-educated, art-fancying, justice-seeking young soldier; but it is plain unfair to bestow such immense, Guardian-leader sprawls of angry egalitarian and ethical argument on one character. There is – certainly at first – far too little interruption and dialogue with the others to sharpen it. Eddie, frankly, goes on and on in a way few characters have been allowed since the days of George Bernard Shaw. It slows the play and detaches you.

 

 

 

With some cuts, it could be sharp indeed. And is certainly topical. And Eddie is morally quite right. But it’s not good being right if you’re boring, and even a Rylance would be hard put to make some of the character’s scenes anything else. Cotton has done this ranting before, in DAYTONA: looking back, I notice I wrote about “long, emotionally charged narrative monologues demanding from the other [cast members] the equally difficult art of listening and reacting.” But I did enjoy the dénouement. I hope for more Cotton, because he’s a great plot-maker. All it needs is a bit less of the GBS speechifying .

 

 

box office 0207 407 0234 southwarkplayhouse.co.uk
rating three   3 Meece Rating

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INK – more thoughts

With the news of its West End transfer in autumn – well deserved –  I  finally caught up with INK (reviewed here on opening night by Luke.

 

I agree with his rating of five, and am as ever dazzled by James Graham’s remarkable ability to recreate a past world and a half-forgotten crisis which still matters, and above all to do it  without tiresome message-signalling or caricature.

It is a remarkably humane and thoughtful piece. And Goold and designer Bunny Christie make marvellous dramatic use both of newspaper office mess and hot-metal drama, now almost forgotten as the grey screens flip silently before dazed eyes in quiet offices or the bedrooms and cafes of freelancers.

A few fresh observations:
,
– Carvel’s body language as Murdoch is clever: shoulders round, somehow both slouching and looming. I like the the gentle upscale Aussie accent, so far from the cruder “Aussie hooligan” caricatures of satirists. Graham’s script also catches the chip on the shoulder and the underreported but well-attested Murdoch primness: an instinctive recoil at the more knickery end of pop journalism.

 
– I wondered whether the story – though true – of Muriel MacKay’s horrible fate would feel bolted-on, but Graham has used it to make the darkening of the play a Faustus legend, a story of fun turning to decay as Larry Lamb chases the chimera of beating his old paper, the Mirror, with any weapons to hand.

 
– The fun itself, the defiant Fleet Street romance and cheek, quite brilliantly done. I had forgotten about the tinned knickers and the Southend werewolf…

 
– In this age of stripped red carpet celebs waving their sideboobs, and innumerable online and lad-mag titshows , it hard to believe now that a nipple could cause such outrage and panic. Even from Cardinals and Downing Street and Mary Whitehouse. And the first page 3 girl disgraced,  told not to come back to her drama school..today she’d be summa cum laude.

 
– But above all, it was mesmerising to find so much of our own age foreshadowed – The understaffed new Sun was getting readers to supply stories ,long before citizen journalism was coined and social media dreamed of.   And beyond that there’s the populism, exuberantly crass, so dismaying to the sober Cudlipp and the broadsheets. A sense of angry insouciant mass feeling and reckless appetite prefigures both   Brexit and Momentum.

Or, at least, the  chinstroking liberal establishment reaction to them…plenty of Cudlipps out there..

 

So, still five enthusiastic press mice.    No point battering down the doors of the Almeida now, it will transfer quite beautifully to the Duke of York’s…

 

5 Meece Rating

 

 

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FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Chichester Festival Theatre

FROM HIS MOUTH TO GOD’S EAR…

 

 

We know Omid Djalili best as a comedian: one of our few Iranian standups. Great timing and great heart, a good Fagin but comparatively new to the stage (he improved before our very eyes in What the Butler Saw). Yet he is dream casting here as our hero Tevye the milkman: Ashkenazi Jewish, heart and butt of a 1905 shtetl, a precarious community in Imperial Russia. To lead in this Stein/ Bock/Harnick musical is a challenge: Tevye has been beloved these forty years, and even I have seen both Topol (in distant youth ) and Henry Goodman (recently). But Djalili’s Tevye is, in its freshness, humour and commitment, once again one to love.

 

Beneath his permanent hat there is a grin and a disgruntlement, patriarchal pride and husbandly henpeck and asides of puzzlement shared with us as he reasons with God and neighbours. There are the quips – “Money is a curse? God smite me with it!”. Under the jerkin and woollen prayer-shawl a warm heart beats; on clumping feet Djalili joins the occasional dance, graceful as a Disney hippo and camp as ninepence. Joyful.

 

 

I say “camp” advisedly, by the way, for camp is not exclusive to gayness but a presentation merely rueful, self-mocking, ironic , fluently expressive (even in the wedding-dance with a bottle on his hat). His scenes with Tracy-Ann Oberman as his wearily dominant wife Golde are suitably gold; so are all his interactions, warm and nimble. Whether deploying drop-dead for necessary laughs, becoming suddenly earnest in solemn Hebrew prayer, or flashing into a genuine horror of Faith at his youngest daughter’s defiant marrying-out, he feels quite simply right and real.
Ah, faith. Living in an regime as dangerous and unwelcoming as Tsarist Russia under the pogroms, Faith and community becomes something to cling to. So is a apt and necessary that Daniel Evans’ direction – as in all his work – is joyfully and solidly ensemble. The daughters are excellent – especially Simbi Akande’s   Tzeitel, who longs for Motl the tailor, and Emma Kingston’s Hodel who follows the revolutionary student to Siberia (Louis Maskell is a quietly impressive Perchik) to Siberia. Liza Sadovy is wickedly funny as the appalling matchmaker, and there is some very classy spitting. But there is nobody on that stage who is not heartfelt: part of the picture, more than a stereotype even in the lightest moments. Even the most briefly drawn romance, Fyedka the Russian and the bookish shy Chava, moves the heart almost inexplicably. So do quintessentially Jewish moments: as when Tevye gives bread to the hungry Perchik with a grumpy “to give is a blessing” and Perchik as he leaves the stage, gives a piece of it to Nachum the beggar. For the Talmud lays down that the beggar who receives charity must give a part in turn to a hungrier one.

 

 

The whole production shines as much in such tiny moments as in big showpieces. There is a real fiddler on the roof outside near the car park, safely tethered by a safety-harness as he plays into the rising summer wind, and inside the theatre, perched vertiginously overhead below the orchestra, agaiin here he is: an emblem of defiant fragility . For as Tevye says they all just “trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking our necks”.

 

 

 

No need to enumerate the laughs and the reflective poignancies in this flawless revival: but by programming it Evans’ Chichester is on particularly sure ground anyway. It feels as sharp as a news bulletin. Consider that Ashkenazi Jewish settlement of Anatevka on the verge of persecution, family-rooted and patriarchal , suspicious of a new and puzzling world of women’s choice . It speaks all too clearly of our own communities which stand aside , poor, wary of the mainstream, loving in families but hopelessly clinging to patriarchal authority as Tevye tries (and fails) to do as his daughters step into a new century. Reflect that perhaps for our own Muslim communities tradition is, as for Tevye, a security blanket: “Everyone knows who is is and what God expects him to to”.

 
And among us too too are refugees from villages flattened with just the same brutality as Anatevka in the last act. Weary processions of men and headscarved women trudge nightly through the ten o’clock news with cases and bags echoing the handcarts and bundles of the past (much of the set’s furniture, significantly, is suitcases). From Syria to Stockport, Fiddler has messages for us. About how a community can be a choking restriction or a defiant victim, but at the same time be security and shelter , a rumbustious family joke and a cherished memory.
Impossible not to reflect on all this as you watch this glorious production.

 

 

But even if reflection and tears for the past and present are not your thing, just go for fun This is, after all, a Daniel Evans production, and stage machinery must not be ignored. Tevye’s dream and Grandma’s ghost will knock your socks off. Oh yes. Send it up West soon. Please.

 

http://www.cft.org.uk or 01243 781312 to 2 September
rating five  5 Meece Rating

 

 

 

We know Omid Djalili best as a comedian: one of our few Iranian standups. Great timing and great heart, a good Fagin but comparatively new to the stage (he improved before our very eyes in What the Butler Saw). Yet he is dream casting here as our hero Tevye the milkman: Ashkenazi Jewish, heart and butt of a 1905 shtetl, a precarious community in Imperial Russia. To lead in this Stein/ Bock/Harnick musical is a challenge: Tevye has been beloved these forty years, and even I have seen both Topol (in distant youth ) and Henry Goodman (recently). But Djalili’s Tevye is, in its freshness, humour and commitment, once again one to love.

 

Beneath his permanent hat there is a grin and a disgruntlement, patriarchal pride and husbandly henpeck and asides of puzzlement shared with us as he reasons with God and neighbours. There are the quips – “Money is a curse? God smite me with it!”. Under the jerkin and woollen prayer-shawl a warm heart beats; on clumping feet Djalili joins the occasional dance, graceful as a Disney hippo and camp as ninepence. Joyful.

 

I say “camp” advisedly, by the way, for camp is not exclusive to gayness but a presentation merely rueful, self-mocking, ironic , fluently expressive (even in the wedding-dance with a bottle on his hat). His scenes with Tracy-Ann Oberman as his wearily dominant wife Golde are suitably gold; so are all his interactions, warm and nimble. Whether deploying drop-dead for necessary laughs, becoming suddenly earnest in solemn Hebrew prayer, or flashing into a genuine horror of Faith at his youngest daughter’s defiant marrying-out, he feels quite simply right and real.

Ah, faith. Living in an regime as dangerous and unwelcoming as Tsarist Russia under the pogroms, Faith and community becomes something to cling to. So is a apt and necessary that Daniel Evans’ direction – as in all his work – is joyfully and solidly ensemble. The daughters are excellent – especially Emma Kingston’s Tzeitel, who longs for Motl the tailor, and Hodel who follows the revolutionary student to Siberia (Louis Maskell is a quietly impressive Perchik) to Siberia. Liza Sadovy is wickedly funny as the appalling matchmaker, and there is some very classy spitting. But there is nobody on that stage who is not heartfelt: part of the picture, more than a stereotype even in the lightest moments. Even the most briefly drawn romance, Fyedka the Russian and the bookish shy Chava, moves the heart almost inexplicably. So do quintessentially Jewish moments: as when Tevye gives bread to the hungry Perchik with a grumpy “to give is a blessing” and Perchik as he leaves the stage, gives a piece of it to Nachum the beggar. For the Talmud lays down that the beggar who receives charity must give a part in turn to a hungrier one.

The whole production shines as much in such tiny moments as in big showpieces. There is a real fiddler on the roof outside near the car park, safely tethered by a safety-harness as he plays into the rising summer wind, and inside the theatre, perched vertiginously overhead below the orchestra, agaiin here he is: an emblem of defiant fragility . For as Tevye says they all just “trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking our necks”.

 

No need to enumerate the laughs and the reflective poignancies in this flawless revival: but by programming it Evans’ Chichester is on particularly sure ground anyway. It feels as sharp as a news bulletin. Consider that Ashkenazi Jewish settlement of Anatevka on the verge of persecution, family-rooted and patriarchal , suspicious of a new and puzzling world of women’s choice . It speaks all too clearly of our own communities which stand aside , poor, wary of the mainstream, loving in families but hopelessly clinging to patriarchal authority as Tevye tries (and fails) to do as his daughters step into a new century. Reflect that perhaps for our own Muslim communities tradition is, as for Tevye, a security blanket: “Everyone knows who is is and what God expects him to to”.

And among us too too are refugees from villages flattened with just the same brutality as Anatevka in the last act. Weary processions of men and headscarved women trudge nightly through the ten o’clock news with cases and bags echoing the handcarts and bundles of the past (much of the set’s furniture, significantly, is suitcases). From Syria to Stockport, Fiddler has messages for us. About how a community can be a choking restriction or a defiant victim, but at the same time be security and shelter , a rumbustious family joke and a cherished memory.
Impossible not to reflect on all this as you watch this glorious production.

 

But even if reflection and tears for the past and present are not your thing, just go for fun This is, after all, a Daniel Evans production, and stage machinery must not be ignored. Tevye’s dream and Grandma’s ghost will knock your socks off. Oh yes. Send it up West soon. Please.

 

http://www.cft.org.uk or 01243 781312 to 2 September
rating five
 

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YANK! Charing Cross Theatre, SW1

NEW GUEST CRITIC THOMAS HOLLOWAY FINDS A NEW MUSICAL

 

 

Arriving at the Charing Cross Theatre this weekend, in the wake of London’s Pride weekend, is this transfer from the enterprising new Hope Mill Theatre.Inspired by the musical traditions of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Yank! was written by Joseph and David Zellnik: in this Pride week it tells a tale those veterans could not have dared to: the story of Stu and Mitch, two soldiers who fall in love whilst in the US Army. Dressed in the drag of the old MGM musicals Yank! becomes both a homage to 1940’s Hollywood glamour and a testament to the bravery of the gay American men and women who fought on the front lines during World War II.

 

 

It’s a fascinating concept: it feels as though this is a lost musical from the era’s canon, recovered and reinserted into history. This seems to be exactly the Zellnik Brothers aim: they have reclaimed a pivotal moment of gay history which has been lost to the record, by using the very iconography with which the gay identity found itself.

 

 

However, the execution seems slightly unfocused. Incorporating an overabundance of themes, David Zellnik’s book never concentrates on the beats it truly wants to explore, playing erratically with plots and motifs, not awarding the themes the complexity they deserve. There is too much extraneous fluff built into it, which combined with some of the show’s anachronistic humour muddies what it has to say about sexuality and gender.

 

 

This extends to his characters, which are mostly stereotypical tropes, many of whom who do little to serve the narrative. The two lovers are very much of the masculine protector/feminine protected type seen in a lot of queer media, and despite the World War II setting that feels a little tired. This is particularly a shame, as the play makes it clear that this is a crucial moment of history where the concepts of gender and sexuality are being discovered, so it seems somewhat of a missed opportunity.

 

 

This is to not slight the performances, which are all exceptional. Scott Hunter is incredibly affecting as Stu, masterfully guiding his character’s subtle transition from nervous youngster to brave freedom fighter. He is supported wonderfully by Andy Coxon’s Mitch (whose honeyed voice is nothing short of excellent), who excellently conveys his character’s internal struggle with the expectations of masculinity, and Chris Kiely’s Artie, who gives the show a much needed comic flourish.

 

 

However, best in show is Sarah-Louise Young, whose smoky vocals and bold character turns makes her a wonderful ode to both the struggle of women throughout the war and the glamorous old Hollywood starlets who occupy queer iconography to this day. All of the company’s tight vocals and choreography are up to any West End performer’s: it’s just that some of the characters get lost in the mix.

 

 

But this is definitely worth seeing, and a great insight into American queer culture during the Second World War. The Zellnik brothers produce a score of fantastic tunes, conveying both the vibrant hope and suffocating loss of the era. Victoria Hinton’s set uses the space well, and has a wonderful sliding door element revealing a wide array of characters, musicians or obstacles, meaning you never know what awaits our protagonists next. Particularly fantastic is Aaron J. Dootson’s lighting design, a wonderful spectrum of scenes and moods, all the way from the horror of war to the glamour of the silver screen.

 

 
So Yank! is definitely a much-needed, and charming, ode to the courage of these lost heroes – it just gets a little distracted along the way.

 

 

box office 08444 930 650 http://www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk to 19 August
rating three   3 Meece Rating

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QUEEN ANNE Theatre Royal, Haymarket WC1

A MODERN WORLD GROWING, BENEATH THE PERIWIGS

 

 

I saw Helen Edmundson’s marvellous RSC history-play about Anne’s short reign some eighteen months ago; the review is here – http://tinyurl.com/y7u6ydas – a gurgle of pleasure and interest, background sketched in, and five mice-worth concluding with a plea for a transfer.

 

 

So here it is: some cast changes to note, though all more than up to standard. Natalie Abrahami’s cast again centres on Emma Cunniffe’s Anne, touchingly needy then increasingly determined, a woman of sorrows growing into wisdom and a matriarchal affection for the people tormented by war and poverty. Romola Garai becomes the schemingly glamorous Sarah Churchill, Chu Omanbala the great, flawed General Churchill, and Jonny Glynn Swift leading the tavern mob. Hywel Morgan takes over as the endearingly hopeless Prince George, but Carl Prekopp is back as Defoe, and Beth Park reprises her role as the strong, plain, skinny, scornful and decent Abigail.

 

 

 

But I return to it fascinated, because it feels different, stronger even, on this second viewing – in the capital, and in a country which since the first production has become more startlingly riven and confused . Although the personal relationships and court struggles are as fascinating, and the riotous satirical interludes among tavern wags still make our own satirists seem restrainedly wet, I found that the politics resonated far more strongly.

 

 

Wars in Europe, plotters and spinners surrounding power, uneasy alliances and a borderline superstitious horror of religious fanatics at the door (Catholics in this case). There is even a stock market crash scare, and a looming budget deficit, and peculation and bribery in high places, and a tendency in a male hierarchy to feel suspicious and thwarted at any display of “rampant femininity”. Edmundson’s delicate rhythm and powerful bursts of monosyllable (“What mean the Scots? What irks them now?”) are as fresh and sharp as ever. Seek out the bargains. Don’t miss it.

 

 

 

Box Office   020 7930 8800 trh.co.uk to 30 September

rating: still five  5 Meece Rating

 

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LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL Wyndham’s , WC1

A GREAT HEART AND TALENT,  REMEMBERED WITH LOVE

 

O my days! If you have any feeling for jazz and blues, for women, music or the historic trials and triumphs of black America, don’t think of missing this. Fight your way in. In ninety intense, absorbing minutes is distilled a troubled spirit and a half-century of change. As a performance it is unique, electric: as a tribute to a great performer it more than equals Tracie Bennett’s remarkable evocation of Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow.

 

 

This time the subject is Billie Holiday, in the last year of her life: high and drunk and needing to tell her stories in the womblike, midnight world of a run-down Philadelphia jazz club. Tables are scattered on stage and in front of the stalls; the reality of the lamplit setting has a jazz trio playing moodily onstage before the start, with Neville Malcolm astonishing on the bass and Frankie Tontoh jokey and slick on the drums. It draws you into a world.

 

 

Audra McDonald is the real thing. As a singer of course: she catches Holiday’s strength and vulnerability, high moments, delicate phrasing and despairing growl. But equally her acting is shatteringly real: intense, sincere, witty, troubling. Lanie Robertson’s play is rather a marvel too: never a false note. It was written after hearing a friend’s account of a real day in 1959 when, at just such a club, washed-up and unreliable the Lady staggered in with her little dog and performed a handful of songs to half a dozen patrons. She did not have long to live with a weak heart, a heroin habit, a year in jail for possession, a long humiliation by the US colour bar, and a constantly refilled glass. But she was a legend. And the legend is served here with heart-stopping sincerity.
McDonald staggers, giggles, growls, but suddenly straightens, lets herself be carried by the music, a true Lady in white ballgown. She remembers the wonder of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, her mother “the duchess” at the cat-house, the no-good husband who got her onto heroin and her friend the sax player Prez who tried to get her off it. A hard wit condemns Philadelphia as a “ratsass” place , especially its white police who “after dey freed coloured people, dont know what to do with them, so dey lock us up again”. She jibes cheerfully at white people – “like us, only meaner” – but tearfully remembers how Artie Shaw’s white band would eat with her in the kitchen -paying double – when “coloureds” were not allowed in a restaurant, and how when refused use of the lavatory she took revenge.

 

 

She barracks her pianist Jimmy (Shelton Becton) as he visibly tries to coax her out of rambling and into each new number. There’s real tension in that: the drama (directed by Lonny Price with tight attention) rises with some flare of temper, evoking the real uncertainty of a failing maverick talent. Late in the show “Strange Fruit” carries real shock, as it always has done; but is followed by her vanishing offstage, awkward apologies and claims of medical problems from the pianist, and a sudden return of the diva, happily clutching a real chihuaha which licks her face as she belts out “T’aint nobody’s business”.
Go if you can. You’ll not forget it.

 

 

box office https://tickets.delfontmackintosh.co.uk to 9 Sept.
rating five   5 Meece Rating

 

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COMMITTEE Donmar, WC1

THE MIRACLE THAT FAILED

 

 

The subtitle is “The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship with Kids’ Company”. Josie Rourke, with Hadley Fraser and Tom Deering’s music, has made a sort of opera from the verbatim public record of that day in October 2015, when the most normally “un-sexy” of Select Committees, under Bernard Jenkin MP, interrogated Camila Batmanghelidjh, who founded and led the charity for two decades, and her Chairman Alan Yentob.

 

 

 

It had gone broke, salaries unpaid, and abruptly closed after accepting over the years £ 42m of public subsidy including a final, desperate £3m emergency bung. Indeed the rather cruel payoff is Batmanghelidh’s indignant “On what basis have you decided this is a failing charity?” and Jenkin’s “Because it’s gone bust!”. She, however, is allowed one last majestic aria about poor and abused children failed by the state.

 

 

 

Which, of course, they often are. And that derogation of social duty, erosion of social services and lack of trust in public organization is one reason that KidsCo lasted so long, a refuge and succour to its “self-referred” young clients. It impressed many ministers and donors, ticked the box for Cameron’s ‘big society’, and was allowed to suck up public money with little oversight by its puffed-up, self-satisfied networking-freak of a chairman. Who, in a rare descent into plain speaking, replied to the question of why they didn’t “restructure” with the words “We believed the government was going to give us more money”.

 

 

It is a fascinating and still unresolved story, not least because of the exuberant, eccentric figure of Camila herself; and the way a select committee works is actually not undramatic, especially when made surreal as the panel rise up, sing choruses (“We want to learn! This is not a show trial, we want to learn!” ) or read written statements from outside witnesses. The interrogators are all pitch-perfect, with that characteristic MP-mixture of earnest administrator and “showbiz-for-ugly-people”. Notably there is Alexander Hanson’s urbanely civil Jenkin, Liz Robertson’s sarky Cheryl Gillan, Rosemary Ashe as the maverick Kate Hoey and the Welsh terrier Paul Flynn (Anthony O’Donnell).

 

 

 

But of course the focus is on the odd couple who sit before them (and are seen up on screens, and occasionally rise to pace the floor, singing) . Sandra Marvin is unnervingly like Camila in multicoloured dress and turban, gait, high-pitched speech, and unnerving smile: when she sings the sincerity of both the woman’s good intentions and her dangerous self-belief are gloriously magnified. As Yentob, Omar Ebrahim is not quite the cornered-rat one remembers from the TV relay (possibly because he’s a splendid baritone, which gives a Verdiesque dignity even to his absurdities, like the notorious claim he signed off that without more money London would see “riots and looting”) . But he does often catch the pompous worry of a man addicted to citing powerful friends and colleagues who approve of him: the PM, Michael Gove, the “Chairman of WH Smith”, big banks, whoever….
 

 

So it’s all there: the Camila flakiness, the Chairman’s complacency, the dark unseen hinterland of tragic young lives, and the clash between idealism and safe administrative procedure. You reflect, watching and listening to Batmanghelidjh,, that giving – financially and emotionally – is a satisfying addiction, and can if imprudent bring you down. As for Yentob, the reflection is that thinking well of yourself and collecting plaudits from grand friends is probably another addictive behaviour. So what we had here was a kind of folie-a-deux. If the Chair had been some tough, clever, unimpressable terrier of a manager, we might still have the charity.

 

 

But is this good drama? Not really. The sense of going round in circles of irritable mutual misunderstanding – which that hearing of course did – means it feels unresolved, even sometimes dull. Despite the pair’s arias, you get little sense of the diverse realities of these unseen children. None of the outside written submissions , for instance, reflect the large number of clients (one of whom, a friend, was sitting next to me) who saw it close up. Especially those who were initially helped and grateful, owe KidsCo a lot and give it thanks, yet had firmly to disentangle themselves from the therapeutic emotionalism of the increasingly dominant foundress as they grew up. There’s a whole other play there. But this one may, in going off at half-cock, have stopped that happening for a few years at least.

 

 

box office 0844 871 7624 to February 2017
Principal Sponsor Barclays.
Rating two  2 meece rating

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