Aug 12 2016 | By More

★★★☆☆  Ambitious

St Ninian’s Hall (Venue 230) Aug 8 – 20 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Hugely ambitious, Edinburgh Theatre Arts’ production of Lucy Prebble’s Enron at St Ninian’s is uneven but always intriguing, and gets a lot right.

The almost ridiculous idea of taking on a recent West End hit that deals with highly complicated financial and political intrigue – and one whose impact depended largely on multimedia techniques, video screens and raptors prowling the stage – can only be praised. There is also a great deal more ‘adult’ content than in your average local company production. And if it does not all come off, there is certainly more than enough here to retain interest.


The reasons behind the collapse of one of the world’s largest companies are not necessarily made clearer in a lightly fictionalised account of events. Essentially, shadow companies were set up purely to buy up Enron’s bad debt in order to make the company seem profitable and inflate its share price, creating a spiral in which greater and greater sums of money had to be disguised.

To non-economists, this seems both dishonest and impossible to sustain, but in Prebble’s version Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling sees himself as a misunderstood, visionary figure. Colin McPherson is superb in the role, never wavering from the driven, self-deluding, brittle persona.

John McLinden’s direction is equally impressive. Finlay Black’s excellent split-level set is used cleverly, and the large cast are well drilled.

While not all of the cast are completely at home with either characters or accents, there are some interesting performances. David McCallum, as Andy Fastow, the accountant who devises the dubious financial practices, is compellingly weaselly.

sympathetic portrayal

Claudia Rae, the executive who was first Skilling’s lover, then his rival, is given a sympathetic portrayal by Suzie Marshall. Derek Marshall, as company chair Ken Lay, is less at home, with his accent more mid-Atlantic than most and his characterisation just too cuddly.

The vast array of roles played by the rest of the cast proves difficult to keep up with at times, with multiple parts played by the same actors not always sufficiently differentiated.

Some of the more unusual elements of the staging, moreover, are decidedly hit and miss. The video screens, while well enough used, do not have the necessary impact. The animal-headed creatures, particularly the raptors, are a bit too CBeebies in appearance to be threatening. The movement sequences are erratic, evoking tipsy relatives at a wedding more than anything.

The play also outstays its welcome a little. It is probably the fault of the original text, but the last forty minutes, after things have unravelled at Enron, drag considerably.

That elements fall short is really only because of the impossibility of the task ETA set themselves here. Even to attempt such an ambitious piece shows extraordinary chutzpah. That so much of it succeeds is the real story.

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes including one interval (Note that this is 35 minutes longer than originally advertised in Fringe programme and website)
St Ninian’s Hall (Venue 230), 40 Comely Bank, EH4 1AG
Mon 8 – Sat 20 August 2016 (not Sun 14, Wed 18)
Daily at 7.30 pm, Matinees Sat 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/enron
Company website: https://www.edinburghtheatrearts.com
Facebook: edinburghtheatrearts
Twitter: @EdinTheatArts


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