Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Enron - Chicester Festival Theatre

Writer: Lucy Prebble
Director: Rupert Goold
Reviewer: David Saunders

I arrived at the Minerva with a preconception I am afraid, I like the work that Headlong produces they are an inventive, stylish and challenging company who produces work that is usually stark and grounded in real emotionality. However this is not the case here. The piece which deals with the financial fraud committed by Enron officials at the turn of this century and the effects of those crimes. The problem here however is not with the performances but the concept.

This production is overly tricky with a text and subject matter that does not require it. By that I mean it is as if the creative team have been given a list and told to go and ensure they use every single theatrical trick and show they can in order to complete the performance. The creative work that is employed is no doubt stunning and used in a more restrained fashion would have been stunning for sure but here it makes what is a fast moving story feel flabby and overcooked. I know that the current vogue in Theatre is to show off as much as is humanly possible but Theatre should be about telling human stories most importantly and not just throwing as much at a piece as you can for the sake of it.

The concept aside there are some fine performances here; Samuel West brings depth and pathos to Jeffrey Skilling as we see his decline into desperation. The work Tom Goodman-Hill is at times hugely comic and twisted as he seeks to impress his worth to West’s Skilling. There is an excellent ensemble at work here with weight added by Tim Piggott-Smith and Amanda Drew. The cast as whole are stunning in their efforts but there is the sense that they are at times hamstrung not by Lucy Prebble’s economic, weighted and crisp text but by all the added layers placed on top of it by the Creative Team.

The design elements of this piece are exquisite from the detail and precision of the lighting through to the clever multi media work. The movement direction is also in keeping with the tone of the piece and adds an edge that would otherwise be lost.

The director Rupert Goold is being muted in Theatre circles at the moment as a bright young thing he is destined for the RSC in 2010 and possibly in the future the National? I would say that yes there are some clever moments in this piece but he needs to look carefully at the layers he is allowing into his work. The words, characters, and story are the key here and directors should look to maintain that status quo. I am a fan of technical work and the design is at times as I have said stunning but it does beg the question: Is the piece better or worse of for it?

Enron runs at the CFT until 29th August
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