Forget bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…Enron has bigger, more financially deceptive bubbles to pop.
Enron is a play based on the events of the Enron scandal of 2001, which saw the Texan gas and electricity company exposed of hiding billions of dollars of debts through special purpose entities (companies hidden within companies- the Russian dolls of the corporate world.)
The focus of the play is the CEO of the organisation Jeffrey Skilling, charting his initial engagement in highly fraudulent activity with the help of his buffoonish yet destructive CFO Andy Fastow. What we are left with is a tale of deception, delusion and scandal.
Prior to watching the show, I was concerned that I should have gotten out of bed more and attended the Economics for Historians lecture series in order to actually understand the ins and outs of complex corporate fraud. Needless to say I shouldn’t have worried. Lucy Prebble’s play seamlessly guided the audience through perhaps one of the biggest financial scandals ever to hit the States.
Dan Sanderson’s performance as the self-deluded Jeffrey Skilling was polished, comfortably demonstrating Skilling’s inner torment, constantly deceiving himself into believing the validity of his fraudulent practices. Jasmin Rees handled her role as Skilling’s rival Claudia Roe with particular excellence, accurately conveying the personal frustration at the misogyny rife in the corporate environment. Matt Gurtler’s portrayal of Andy Fastow is also of particular note, Gurtler injecting an aptly twisted sense of humour to the production.
The real standout performance, however, came from the Ensemble. Acute direction from Simon West and Ella Godfrey along with evident acting talent amongst the ensemble, effortlessly and vividly playing lawyers, market traders, press workers, children and accountants (Louisa Keight’s sock puppet of an accountant was particularly glorious), gave the production a heightened sense of energy and edge that allowed the audience to feel part of the cut throat corporate world. Indeed, the ensemble’s role as velociraptors devouring company debt was an amusing and eerie touch, even if the lady front of me was slightly taken aback at being death-stared by a dinosaur.
The Corpus Playroom, while slightly bare, was used effectively. The projection of video clips showing poignant political moments from the nineties and early noughties (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman!”) not only allowed the audience to feel at home in the play’s historical context (Bush/Gore 2000 nostalgia), but also added to the impressive pace of the production.
The production wasn’t faultless. Some lines were fluffed initially, elements of audience participation seemed uncomfortable and there were occasions when some of the American accents on show were more suited to the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee than Houston, Texas. Some moments verged on bonkers (the significance of slapping Fastow with a dildo? Alas, I shall never know.)
On the whole, however, Enron remains an accomplished, darkly comedic production. The play is cunningly humorous yet stained with uncomfortable truths. Above all, the show powerfully brings to life the inner rot of bonus culture, fraudulent enterprise and market manipulation and leaves the audience in little doubt of the lessons that needed, and still need, to be learnt.
Weary of the Exam term bubble? Burst out of the College library and get yourself down to the Playroom.