Not something I would have expected to see in a play about the downfall of a company, but one of the many ways to bring what many call the prelude to the financial crisis to a new audience.
Enron tells the story of the Texas based Energy company’s boom and following bankruptcy under CEO Jeff Skilling and his Financial Officer Andy Fastow. Going from posting revenue of $50 billion profit to filing for bankruptcy with debts of $23 billion, the play charts the rise and spectacular collapse of America’s biggest energy company at the time.
I know very little about the financial world, yet Lucy Preeble’s narration effortlessly explains and illustrates the complexities, making the play very accessible – you aren’t left feeling like you have to play catch up at the interval. A scene in which Fastow explains his scheme for placing Enron’s debts in shadow companies is particularly strong, with the cardboard boxes and a small red light used to illustrate the principles, an explanation which even a financial novice like myself can understand.
Preeble’s depiction of Skilling (admirably portrayed by Corey Johnson) is firm but fair. Whilst his fragility lures you into feeling sympathetic towards his downward spiral, it quickly turns to despair as he continues to make choices which affect the lives of many in the long run. Paul Chahidi’s performance is note-worthy, showing Fastows’ desperate attempts to balance his desire to gain Skillings’ respect and keep his own guilt at bay.
A strong visual presence helps keep the pace yet some scenes, in particular those illustrating the trading floor, lose their impact due to length. The prolonged shouting of buy and sell, with little visual support, feels over indulgent and detracts from some very strong performances by the ensemble.
In what could be a play of endless laborious explanations contained within an uninspiring story, Enron is skilfully transferred into an exciting, entertaining production, one which given the current financial situation of the world, offers audiences an albeit brief escape.
Enron is playing at Richmond Theatre until 2nd October and is currently on tour. Details can be found here.