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If you’re into plays based around colossal financial scandal, then now is a great time to be in the West End. Last autumn I saw The Power of Yes at the National, but the play that everyone was talking about was Enron. And this evening I finally got around to seeing the play that’s won so many awards.
It got a West End transfer at the start of the year following runs in Chichester and the Royal Court. And its cleaned up in most of the awards that have taken place since.
That’s not altogether surprising since Lucy Prebble’s play puts an entertaining yet appropriate fantasy edge on what was an extraordinary yet potentially dry financial story.
Actually, that’s not altogether true. Even the fairly average TV movie, The Crooked E, was watchable in part because of the true nature of the fantasy they were building in Houston.
The cast is led Samuel West as Jeffrey Skilling, the CEO who begins to take Enron down the route that Chairman Ken Lay (Tim Pigott-Smith) had been heading. Tom Goodman-Hall plays Andy Fastow the “creative” CFO who comes up with the convoluted mechanisms to hide the enormous amount of debt that Enron was actually acruing as it reported record profits each year. The other main cast member is Amanda Drew as Claudia Roe, the Enron executive muscled out of the business as she tried to actually develop some actual products for the company to trade. But she’s not white amongst the blackness of the illegality.
The staging is stark, as was that of the Power of Yes, but it employs smarter multimedia techniques than that play with projections and an omnipresent stock ticker keeping us abreast of Enron’s stock price.
As I mentioned, there are some fantasy elements – musical interludes if you will – that work really well to paint a picture of the vibrant atmosphere in the company as its share price leapt skywards. And a sequence involving light-sabres to depict the deregulation of the Californian electricity market is stunning. I can see why the play won so many Best Director awards.
Overall – a good night out, and worth catching while it’s still on.
PS The performance I saw was supposed to be followed by a Q&A. I was going to stay for it, but the play lasts rougly 2 hours and 45 minutes, so by 10.15pm I felt less inclined to get into a discussion surrounding the circumstances of how Enron happened. And I wasn’t alone, with barely anyone in the audience apparently staying around. In retrospect, those sorts of discussions possibly work better prior to the play. Nobody went into Enron not knowing the general outcome.
PPS Somebody wants to let the producers of the play’s website that The Guardian’s logo hasn’t been like that for some time. At least not since the time this play takes place.