CHARITY Case is an ambitious (and somewhat provocative) play that looks at the many issues impacting on the charity sector – while highlighting the acute financial problems that many parents face bringing up a disabled child.
Written by Jeff Page and directed by Manuel Bau, the play is 75 minutes long – and has a lot to pack in as charity Number 93 faces a funding crisis. One that it must find a solution to pretty quickly, or face closure, in the process unsettling some of the disabled children who use their school and rely on their services.
Feisty chief executive Karen Keane (Louise Devlin) is up for a challenge. She is a whirlwind bundle of energy as she approaches Minister Simon Ericson (Warren Palmer) for funding, phones potential donors pleading for money (some of them wealthy, some slightly mad) and does a Radio 4 interview which backfires spectacularly.
Lending support is the charity’s co-founder Paula Campbell (Laura Shipler Chico) who like Karen has a child with autism (hence the charity’s original formation). Paula is less demonstrative – a foil for Karen’s exuberance – and the friction between them bubbles under the surface. She’s also kindly, offering intern Connor (Bradley Crees) a full time job even though the charity is on its financial knees.
Yet, for all the good the charity does – and for all the people it employs (500) – there are those within its network who hold grudges. Namely, that the founders are over-paid and overbiting the hand that feeds the charity.
It leads to information being leaked to the press that shows the charity in a poor light. And it results in a nasty altercation between Paula and single parent Sarah (Nicola Mae Begley) who is distraught that the school her child is at faces closure.
There is much to admire in this play – none more so than the issues it raises: the poor educational deal many disabled children get as a result of chronic Government under-funding and the high costs many charities rack up that then eat into their income and reserves. Also, why are charities providing the help and assistance that should be available from the state as a basic right. And, probably most important of all, why in Number 93’s case, is a disability charity primarily peopled by white employees without a trace of a disability among them.
The fact that Page has spent a lot of time working in the voluntary sector permeates through the script. It’s sensitive and informed script-writing, but with a coating of warts and all. The ending shows where he nails his colours.
Palmer shines, both as a sympathetic MP with his financial hands tied behind his back, and as former rock star (and past donor) Jez Holding who has obviously taken too many drugs in his debauched past. He seems on a different planet to the rest of us.
Originally due to run in March 2020 before Covid struck, Charity Case deserves more than the one week airing it is receiving at the intimate Drayton Arms Theatre in London’s Chelsea. With a little smoothing of the edges, it could match the success of Page’s and Bau’s Checkpoint Chana that received widespread acclaim at the nearby Finborough Theatre in 2018.
The play runs until November 20. Grab a pint or a glass of fizz beforehand at the bar, go upstairs to the theatre and enjoy.
For ticket info – Thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk