Friday 17 May 2019


Curve, Leicester

16th May 2019

We’re trying to change the world

Lucy Prebble’s 2009 play about the rise and collapse of the Texan energy company of the same name is given a confident and energetic production by Jonathan Martin. A culture of greed, bullying and corruption at the top, Enron is a timely play to be chosen as De Montfort University’s annual co-production at Curve. Reviews of the original production praised the play for being an ‘ultra-theatrical demonstration of [corporate crime] at work’. Martin’s production, performed by a cast of committed DMU students, certainly lives up to this. It’s a frenetic and at times forensic exploration of the behaviour and decisions made in boardrooms and trading floors in the company’s most lucrative period. We hear at the beginning that 90s was a good time for business and the ways in which business was changing. This develops to show the corruption and how the bosses initially got away with it.

Enron can be likened to other works. It evokes the thrill of the trading floor like Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money (1987) as well as the boardroom sharks of J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call (2011). At times it reminded of the audacious bravura of Adam McKay and Charles Randolph’s The Big Short (2015) but I also felt that Prebble (and Martin) is always keen to never let it stray into pure glorification. There’s always a feeling that Enron’s huge successes are going to be met with an equally big downfall; a chorus of dinosaurs are constantly only just at bay. And despite the play’s obvious display of a largely male world, it never feels like 2 hours of mansplaining (unlike Stefano Massini’s and Ben Power’s The Lehman Trilogy – now playing in the West End). What stands out about Enron is its commitment to dramatising the vacuity of the company. The text is rich with inspirational and high power, but ultimately empty, blue sky thinking maxims: ‘we’re aggressive, we take risks, and that’s why we’re successful’; ‘we’re a powerhouse of ideas’; ‘only people prepared to lose are ever gonna win’. Prebble perceptively indulges on showing us the bullshit of these hedonistic highflyers. For me, the play’s focus is on how the company made money and not about the actual work that Enron did. It’s not like in James Graham’s Ink (2017) where the ‘business’ scenes are interspersed with ‘work’ scenes where we see the nitty gritty of the people on the ground with the printing presses. This is purely about the stocks and shares; the suits and the yes men; the ideas and the virtual money.

Kate Unwin’s set is a series of platforms on different levels. It brilliantly captures the verticality of city skyscrapers, and provides the production with a space and aesthetic that emphasises the whirlwind nature of the business: lawyers and accountants face off on opposing balconies, the president orates the highest platform, news reports beam onto TV screens. The effort put in by the creative team must be applauded for this. The cast give confident and committed performances, all of them with assured American accents. Dominic White is excellent as CFO Andy Fastow, going from obsequious career climber to the deceitful one controlling the cards. Eleanor Page gives a memorable turn as an accountant ventriloquist, and Molly Furey excels as Claudia Roe, the lone woman in a testosterone-fuelled environment. But, overall, this is a company-driven piece in which great work is done by all. Can the same be said about Enron?

Enron plays at Curve, Leicester until 18th May.

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