Enron

Tue 17th – Sat 21st May 2016

reviews

Clare Cavenagh

at 23:18 on 17th May 2016

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Much like the machinations of the real-life stock-market, Enron made me slightly depressed and somewhat anxious. This was partially an intended effect of the show itself, dragging the audience through the increasingly incredible (but terrifyingly true) story of the Enron scandal, but partially also a consequence of a sometimes too busy show, a little big and loud for the Playroom, and sometimes marred by heavy-handed direction and acting.

The plot of Enron will have the ability to either galvanise your burgeoning socialism or otherwise belittle your faith in the grand running of things. Essentially, a large corporation, under the new direction of Jeffrey Skilling (Dan Sanderson) the shiny-faced yes-man, discovers that it can make huger profits than ever before by essentially bullshitting the entire stock market, and adding a good dollop of insider trading. This works spectacularly... for a while.

Enron is, admittedly, the sort of story one can't help but feel could only happen in America, but this idea was taken way too far by this particular production. Almost every single line was shouted in accents of varying degrees of verisimilitude, there was confrontational messing with the front row, and even a bit of (unnecessary?) audience participation. The whole cast were dressed in business attire, and strutted about the stage saying "fuck" and hitting the k's a little too hard. Granted, the stock market is a tough place to exist, and I'm sure that traders do wear suits and strut and say fuck. But the extent to which these details were taken in this production were less hard-hitting rendering of a dog-eat-dog industry, and more drama-class caricature.

Having said that, Enron grew on me during the second half of the show, as the company's house-of-cards identity began to unravel, and there were some great ideas which shone through. One of these was the portrayal of the "raptors" created by Andy Fastow (Matt Gurtler) the nerd turned super-economist. These are essentially false companies created and almost entirely owned by Enron who exist purely to take on and hide debts and losses. The raptors, brought into being by Fastow's equations, turn into literal reptilian monsters, swaggering threateningly about the stage, needing to be kept in line, sometimes attacking, sometimes sickening and dying, gorged on too much debt.

Another excellent effect was Louisa Keight's depressed and dozy looking accountant who looked at the audience through half-closed eyes and answered in a despairing monotone, only to be interrupted by an alarmingly shrill, and far more candid, sock puppet.

As someone who avoids all but the most necessary contact with that thing called "economics", Enron was alarming and eye-opening, and especially the second half provided much food for thought. The production was too loud and too large for the space, and often felt like a blunt caricature however. In spite of moments of promise, and some interesting details, Enron shared one fatal thing in common with its corporate namesake: it didn't really work.

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