Enron – ‘bursting the bubble’

A theatrical epic which sought to expose the shadowy mechanisms of the financial world, this term’s production of Lucy Prebble’s Enron turned…

A theatrical epic which sought to expose the shadowy mechanisms of the financial world, this term’s production of Lucy Prebble’s Enron turned what could have otherwise been viewed as a laboured lesson in economics into a flashy visual show where money doesn’t just talk.

With a soundtrack that brought you right back to the best of the 1990’s and early millennia, Mr Jonathan Scott’s direction ensured the audience experienced an exhilarating mix of political satire, modern morality and multimedia.

The acting was perfectly framed in its stark set design; with the raised platform giving way to Fastow’s murky underworld of the finance department and the use of video projection and lightsabres to capture the tone of the time and workings of the stock market. 

The technical crew headed by Miss Wallis and Mr Ellis must be commended for bringing this world to life. With Callum Job, Laila Shariff and Henry Macpherson stage managing, Macca Garlick and Tom Francis on the lighting and sound design, it is always impressive to see how the technical team take ownership of the production as much as the actors.

As the play’s name suggests, the plot centred on how the Texan energy giant, Enron, moved from the icon of the future to a bankrupt disaster with debts of $38 billion. Prebble’s play presented Jeffrey Skilling, Enron’s top executive as the principal villain of the piece rather than Kenneth Lay, its founder.

As an audience we followed Skilling, played with exceptional conviction by Will Chambers as he grew from nerdy, overweight ordinariness into a business tycoon who appropriately declared: “I am Enron”. Appearing in practically every scene of the production, Chambers’ ability to keep pace with the plot and combine Skilling’s brilliance and stupidity to the crescendo of being sent to prison was masterfully accomplished. Aided too by Ted Walliker as the fawning Andy Fastow whose characterisation of the eventual CFO of the company was as skilful as the character’s ability to disguise the company’s debts as assets; the two bounced off each other perfectly and effectively portrayed the rise and fall of Enron.

Initially standing in the way of Skillings’s rise to power was Claudia Roe; a character invented by Prebble, PJ Cunningham performed with the necessary tenacity, power and strength required for a high-powered female executive, capturing the rivalry, manipulation and ultimate betrayal perfectly. A moment which truly personified this was when, through a cloud of smoke she enters donning a leather cat-suit to ‘American Woman’ as she seeks to re-establish herself as the centre of the company. Toby Escolme rivetingly presented Lay, the devout, back slapping Texan whose southern charm seemed to echo his own greed and deception as he sanctioned Skilling’s dirty tricks without wanting to know the details. It really was testament to Toby’s talent that you could not tell him apart as an Upper Fifth student from those of the Upper Sixth!

Meanwhile Eliza Boyd’s performance as Skilling’s lawyer who desperately seeks to provide advice and warning both before and after the event was fantastic. With her unfaltering focus and exasperation over his actions she seemed to represent the overall feeling of those watching these events unfold. Other noticeable performances included Maddy Pollard’s Irene Grant who effectively humanised the impact the company’s loss had on its employees; Aimee Williamson and Toni Taor who managed to emphasise the shock and disbelief of the media at the sudden downfall of Enron and Katie Johnston who performed with the necessary innocence and naivety as Skilling’s daughter.

Of course the final element to the success of this production lay with the strong ensemble cast who, while I unfortunately do not have the word count to name individually, together managed to seamlessly portray both the sombre poignancy of the piece with its comic underbelly. Moments of pause and stillness were greatly juxtaposed with transitions into chaos and panic, such as the 9/11 scene, a heart stopping and emotive section which was closely followed by the humour evoked through Leo Leman and Jack McKee’s entrance as the Siamese twins, the Lehman Brothers and Theo Macdonald’s ventriloquist representation of the accountants. The figurative representations of the board as the three blind mice, and the disguised company debts as the red eyed raptors certainly helped demystify some of the more technical terms and allowed the audience to access this otherwise complex financial world.

A true testament to the acting talent Cranleigh has to offer, Mr Scott’s production allowed its cast to get to grips with a heavy and controversial event which sought to both challenge and entertain its audience in equal measure. A hard-hitting and poignant performance showcasing the exceptional acting ability of our top three years.

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