Tuesday, 8 June 2010


Aside from the excitement over realising that Libby Purves, who is the new chief theatre critic for The Times, also gave The Crucible four stars, and that my review was incredibly similar to hers (and I wrote mine before hers was published!), I have also had the excitement of going to see ENRON.

It was my first time alone in a West End theatre, and I actually quite liked it. I don't prefer it one way or another, they're both quite different experiences. Being alone is good because there's no physical person with you to influence your view on the show, and you can sit and be absolutely absorbed in the play, without your parents, or whoever's with you, starting to talk about what happened on The Biggest Loser last night during the interval. Then again, I wouldn't want to go and see a popular, commercial musical on my own, not that I see many of those nowadays, anyway. The only sad thing was that I had no one to talk about it with afterwards, until I went online.

If anyone wants to go to the theatre, but they don't have anyone else who wants to see what they want to see, as was my situation with ENRON, they should definitely go alone. It's not scary or initimidating, no one laughed at me (and even if they had laughed at me, I wouldn't have cared), and there were quite a few other people on there own. In fact, I counted six lone theatregoers, not including myself, in one small area of the stalls.

So, now for the review. If I was a proffesional critic I would be sacked, because a) It's months after the production opened, b) It's way too long (as usual) and c) It's exactly a week today since I saw the play. Oh well, here it is:

My visit to ENRON marked two momentous occasions. The first was that it was the very first time that I had been all alone in a West End theatre. The second was that it was the first time I had seen the original production of a play.

ENRON, by Lucy Prebble, began life at Chichester (that magic place that seems to produce half a dozen successes in a single year), before transferring to the Royal Court. After a successful run, it found its way to the West End. The bubble was burst, however, when the production posted closing notices just two weeks after opening on Broadway. ENRON’s success should not be measured by this Broadway failure. The situation is much like the one that occurred last year when “Spring Awakening” closed just six weeks into its West End run after success on Broadway. Widely considered to be artistically superior to the majority of the new musicals of the last decade, it just failed to attract an audience in London. Considering where it is set, that is perhaps why ENRON failed to succeed on the great white way.

For me, ENRON was the best play that I have ever seen. The plot begins in 1992 and extends to the current day, allowing the storylines and characters to reminisce with the whole audience, whether we read about them from afar or were affected in similar circumstances.

This made me realise that “older” plays (for want of a better word) would have had a completely different response to the one that they would receive now when they were first performed. For instance, whilst audiences nowadays feel sympathy from afar for Nora in Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, it must have caused all the more impact in the late 1800s, when many women would have been in the same situation as her, and powerless. It is, of course, unthinkable in the 21st Century.

Anyway, the script of ENRON is witty and paced, making what could be a boring story into something relatable. Each character had their own idiolect, and the language was easily accessible for all. This triggered another “deep” thought in me – living in a time where everyone spoke Shakespearian English. Before I share my fantasies about being Anne Hathaway with the whole world, the subject matter of ENRON causes it to succeed. Being set in the cut-throat world of New York stock broking can reflect in the play. Even though it was difficult to care about several characters in the end, it could perhaps be a reflection and indeed an insight into this world.

Rupert Goold’s staging was a surreal experience. I’ve admired his career from afar for a long time now, but shockingly had never seen an actual production directed by him. Now, I want more. His direction seemed to incorporate everything under the sun. All the elements combined to create a surreal yet plausible existence. Most notable was the almost constant presence of ENRON’s share price: the foreboding as it kept increasing, then the descend into chaos as it fell. Throughout, there was never a dull moment. The success must also be attributed to the set design. In this case, less was certainly more, and it looked exactly how I imagine the future.

I doubt that ENRON could have stood up on its own without a great cast. After all, it’s even pushing it when the popcorn musicals, such as “Grease” and “Dirty Dancing” try to do that. It’s only been about a month since this cast took over from those who originated the roles.

The lead role of Jeffery Skilling was played by Corey Johnson. Playing a character that is based upon a real person who lived/is living is never easy, but Johnson carries the play, and even causes the audience to feel a little sympathy towards him, especially when he haltingly delivers the closing monologue.

Sara Stewart as his love interest Claudia was sublimely sexy as she committed fully to her performance. Even when she was behind the gauze she still managed to hold the audience’s attention, and it wasn’t just because of the dress she was wearing.

As the shrewd chair of ENRON, Clive Francis gave an interesting performance, full of surprises. With a cast of 18, all of whom were energetic and given a chance to be unique, the strength of Prebble’s play was highlighted.

It may not become a classic, like “Avenue Q” it may only be “For Now”, but for me ENRON is a fantastic comment on the time we are living in.

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