It was surreal to sit in the Donmar Warehouse and watch Committee, a musical based on the investigation into the charity Kids Company.
The first oddity was that anyone ever thought to write a musical based on the transcript of a Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. The second, that this production wouldn’t have existed if The Spectator hadn’t published an article (by me) raising questions about Kids Company’s appallingly managed finances and the behaviour of its chief executive, Camila Batmanghelidjh.
It’s strange that Camila has come to this. In February 2015, it was considered sacrilege to utter a word against her. She was the untouchable friend of the BBC, banks, politicians, rock stars, business-people, models, thespians and Prince Charles — the embodiment of David Cameron’s Big Society.
But her story is one of classic hubris. After The Spectator dared question
her, other revelations came to light. Batmanghelidjh spent £4,000 a month renting a Grade II-listed house so she could use its swimming pool; the charity funded a client’s sex-change operation; an employee’s child was put through private school. The charity’s chairman, Alan Yentob, further compromised Kids Company by using his status as a BBC panjandrum to take an uncomfortably close interest in the Corporation’s own coverage of what was hurtling towards being a fully blown scandal.
The musical recreates the original set-up of the hearing: Batmanghelidjh (Sandra Marvin) and Yentob (Omar Ebrahim) facing questions from MPs with their backs to the audience, but TV monitors allowing every flash of anger to be seen. Neither was used to being challenged, and they hated it.
While the overall idea of Committee is interesting, it is fundamentally a wasted opportunity, restricted by its source material. There’s too much in this production of Batmanghelidjh warbling on about ‘the catastrophically abandoned children and young people’. The defence she mounted at the real committee hearing may have been passionate, but that didn’t make it right or true.
The final chapter of the story has not been written yet because it can’t be: the Charity Commission and the Official Receiver both launched investigations into it in late 2015 and, mysteriously, have still not published their findings. Perhaps when they are known, another theatre will properly tackle this extraordinary tale of how the liberal elite was so in thrall to one brightly clad woman that it simply watched as millions disappeared.
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