Enron is the modern morality tale. This is where the turmoil of the past two years began. It’s the place where everything from recession, depression, and credit crunch to the second Bush administration began and ended. It is the symbol of the death of American capitalism.
And Lucy Prebble tells it deftly, with a lightness of touch and a comic understanding that ploughs through the financial smoke and mirrors and reveals the cold humanity at its heart.
While the staging – with its songs, dance routines and flashy video stuff – has the feel of a try-hard production with more cash than creativity, Prebble’s play and by extension Rupert Goold’s direction is a solid creation with solid characterisation and a thumping good plot – a plot that’s all the better because it is pretty much true.
Jeffrey Skilling is almost Shakespearean in his frailties. He is a flawed genius, a man whose intelligence is finally outweighed by his almost psychotic arrogance. Samuel West, one of our great classical actors, draws this from within him, physically growing in his character and then shrinking with his rise and fall.
It is another brilliant performance and it is complemented perfectly by the ubiquitous Tom Goodman-Hill as fawning financial officer Andy Fastow, whose disastrous business model destroyed Enron (and ultimately many other firms).
As Enron chairman Ken Lay, Tim Pigott-Smith is old Texas – the embodiment of the American dream, a devil hiding behind the veneer of Christian values.
In the end, Prebble treats him too kindly. If only the audience were so lucky. In a final strike, she reminds us how we benefit from the success of these companies, and suggests that we cannot complain too much now that we are paying for their failures.