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Old 6th Nov 2010, 14:42   #1
Colyngbourne
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Default Enron; Lucy Prebble, Headlong productions; 2010

Holding place for a review come Sunday/Monday



Upping this to ½
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Old 8th Nov 2010, 8:32   #2
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Default Re: Enron; Lucy Prebble, Headlong productions; 2010

Look forward to your review, Col - this was something I was quite interested to see on my once-in-a-blue-moon trip to London in early spring; only in the end we plumped for War Horse instead.
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Old 8th Nov 2010, 12:19   #3
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Default Re: Enron; Lucy Prebble, Headlong productions; 2010

How much do you trust in futures? That you’ll stay with the partner you have? That your kids will do okay – maybe even get to university in these economically fraying times? That you’ll have earned enough to keep you out of penury and poverty in your old age? Are you willing to take a bet on that? Or a stock option, or a flutter on the share prices rising?

Enron – the play, the show, the musical, for it combines all three – spins a tale of gargantuan, almost Greek, proportion. Its players are not tragic heroes, though the presiding genius and inventiveness of both Enron President Jeffry Skilling and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow are presented as true and exciting potential that in other realms or workplaces, could have been exercised to the benefit of all. Instead, these people are chasing Mammon, bigger and fatter, from one decade to the next. They are conjuring realities out of nothing, attributing power and wealth and value to things that do not and may never exist in reality, and resting the future welfare and financial security of untold thousands on over-inflated, non-existent “product”. Just as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace described the unrealistically inflated value of stocks just before the 1929 crash as “cloud-cuckoo-land”, Skilling and Chairman Kenneth Lay built their Texan energy edifice from huge amounts of spin and snake-oil. Nine years after the biggest corporation bankruptcy in US history, most of the practices it began are commonplace in the stock-and-shares business: even yesterday an article in the Observer detailed how the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is offering futures on rainfall and climate prediction, something initially suggested as a practice by Enron.




A gap falls between what is made - a product - and the profit that it yields. Enron stretched that gap until it was unworkable: selling electricity that didn’t exist to the deregulated market in California, causing catastrophic black-outs, in order to artificially hike up the price. They pursued mark-to-market accounting, where anticipated future profits are treated as if presently real. Where no actual profit followed - eg. futures in bandwidth, in amounts which weren't scientifcally feasible at the time - the debts were siphoned off to be swallowed up in ‘shadow companies’ which had only the most tenuous of flickering financial links to the parent company. In Prebble’s play, just as termed in real life, these companies were "Raptors" – here, actors with raptor heads, prowling the hellish-lit basements of an imaginary Enron powerbase, fed with dollar bills and ultimately ‘killed’ when reporters from the finance magazine Fortune asked to see balance sheets.




The play is extremely successful in creating on-stage the exciting and artificial bubble of reality that employees and management at Enron succeeded in inflating for over 15 years – stock exchange hand signals and “open outcry” is a formulative song and dance of trade-offs and panic buying; desk-workers become a projected screen for streaming Matrix-style computer share prices (also recalling the projections onto the raptors in Jurassic Park); a platoon of traders wield light-sabres of energy as they withdraw the electricity supply from California; senior management and lawyers and accountants (29,000 of whom lose their jobs with Enron’s fall) are portrayed as blind mice or gagged/blindfolded witnesses. Lehman Brothers appear as conjoined twins in a single wide business suit.





Doesn’t it all sound rather bizarre and heavy-going? But in reality, it’s fairly dazzling and complex financial terms are explained succinctly by the script: executives line-dance to Dolly Parton in an office party as the share price continues to rise on the digital ticker-tape across the back-stage wall; the slightly-more ethically-minded Claudia Roe (played as a robust shoulder-padded ‘grizzly’ by Amanda Drew) pursues more solid productivity models, building power stations in India, but is quickly out of the picture and the company once the key characters begin their final roll towards an inevitable collapse. The audience see the cost of the incredible profits self-awarded and snuck last-minute from accounts to those at the top – tens of billions – whilst Enron continues insisting right until days before its closure that staff take their wages in stock shares, and invest their money back into the failing company. Two employees tell their story and after a brief trial (this is a three-hour play), Jeffry is decked in orange penitentiary clothing and the stage is left to his musing.



He is not penitent however, since he used his skills and ideas to build something, leap of faith that in previous centuries led to some of the benefits in society people enjoy today. But ultimately this is now an “insubstantial pageant faded”. Skilling is not the only villain – many employees, lawyers, accountants, investors (both national and global) were complicit in the scandal of Enron – but he is no Prospero either. The castle built on air, or sand, or cards, falls terribly, and this dazzling spectacle of a show, revealing the sleight-of-hand with which it was built, is really a triumph of its own. Go and see it, ono!

½
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Old 8th Nov 2010, 13:02   #4
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Default Re: Enron; Lucy Prebble, Headlong productions; 2010

It sounds superb. Sadly missed my chance to see it at Bath (Bath and Cheltenham usually good for touring productions) so will have to keep an eye out for it touring again. I think Mr ono will really like it, too.
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Old 9th Nov 2010, 3:30   #5
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Default Re: Enron; Lucy Prebble, Headlong productions; 2010

Great review, Col. Interesting that the play didn't catch fire on Broadway and closed after only a few performances. I'd love to see it...

Last edited by Beth; 9th Nov 2010 at 3:44.
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