When it first premiered Lucy Prebble's Enron went down a storm. Chronicling the rise and fall of the energies corporation, which collapsed in 2001, it focused on the people who revolutionised the workings of the company and led to one of the most infamous financial scandals in recent history.
The play hones in on Jeffrey Skilling (effectively portrayed by Jamie Murphy), the CEO who oversaw the illegal activities that would be the company's undoing. Murphy's Jeffery is equal parts ruthless, sidelining longstanding executive Claudia Roe (a charismatic Abby McCann, limited by the somewhat reduced stage time for her character), and pathetic. But he is not the only architect of Enron's downfall with CFO Andy Fastow (a delightfully odd turn from Alex Rugman) responsible for the micro-details of the con and the company's owner Ken Lay (a scene-stealing Jonny Wiles) wilfully ignoring the evidence in front of him. Enron is a complicated play but it is all held together by a quartet of compelling performances.
In fact the ensemble in general are terrific (bar a few wandering accents), impressively leaping between different roles and bringing a much needed frenetic energy. The first half could have done with more of a pace, becoming bogged down in setting up the different stakeholders that will be key to the play's climax. But the second half emerges as a sprightly, refreshingly odd slice of theatre. Director Emma Howlett marshals the production together superbly, proving a talent to keep an eye on. I particularly enjoyed the fabulous use of projections, eking out some chuckles in its use of footage from the era, and a terrific score that moves from 80s synth pop to pulsating electro beats.
There are elements of tragedy in Prebble's play, characters undone by their hubris and drive to succeed at any cost. And yet it flourishes more as a comedy with whip smart lines and moments of surrealism giving everything a lightness of touch. But this is still a rage-inducing piece. People's lives are destroyed, a corrosive financial order rises and we witness the canary in the mine warning us that something terrible will (and did) happen. What is great about Prebble's writing is that it manages to unpack dense ideas and explain them in an approachable manner. It's no wonder that Enron has survived the test of time where other tomes of the financial crash have not.
So if this production can't quite live up to the text it is working off of, it doesn't prevent it from being an epic in scope (and length), much-needed look at the foundations for our broken financial system. Aided by a talented cast and some exceptional music and projection, Enron emerges as a compelling, engaging (if bum-numbing) production. Just be warned, you may leave the theatre exceptionally angry at the state of the world.