Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Enron review (Noel Coward Theatre) - slick entertainment with a message to deliver

Mention the word Enron and the first thing that comes to your mind would be corporate fraud that dominated the business world at the turn of the 21st century right. Even though the losses in Enron was eclipsed by later by WorldCom and then Lehman Brothers, its name would forever be imprinted in the corporate world as a corporate governance case study.

That said, most of us would struggle if asked what exactly caused the collapse of Enron, which subsequently brought down Arthur Anderson, one of the big five accounting firms worldwide. Enron, directed by Rupert Goold, playing at Noel Coward Theatre along St Martin’s Lane,  seeks to present the story behind the scenes in a frank entertaining manner. And he accomplishes just that.

Jeffrey Skilling (played by Corey Johnson), a rising star, was the smartest guy in Enron. With his proposed ‘mark to market’ accounting, Enron was racking up profits as money that hasn’t actually been made show up in its financial statements. With the endorsements from stock analysts and investment firms (Lehman Brothers showing up as a Siamese twins), its stock price rocketed and became the darling of the stock market.

The play goes on about how Skilling wanting people to understand about what ‘mark to market’ really means and the special investment vehicle that he orchestrated really does – to no avail. With the share price heading through the roof, no one bothers really even when Enron couldn’t even produce a viable balance sheet. When it all came crashing down, it came down hard. Goold showed an unrepentant Skilling, determined that he didn’t commit any crimes and he was merely ahead of his time.

Enron the musical presented the story behind the ascension and fall of Skilling in an entertaining and concise two hours show. At some point Enron did look like a very slick high school play (in a good way really) with scenes of chaos at the trading floor and celebration parties. While Power Of Yes might be more academic, Enron the play, through parodies and ‘slow-mo’ effects, made it more palatable to the audience.

Debuting at Noel Coward Theatre earlier in January this year, Enron will be playing till August 2010. It was still packed when we went last weekend. Well, to avoid disappointment, book your tickets here now.

Noel Coward Theatre
St Martin's Lane
London WC2N 4A
Enron image source

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Karin said...

argh I am supremely envious - this is one of those plays I really really wanted to catch, but the miles between Singapore and London make it impossible to do so before it closes.

By the way, Skilling was not being played by Sam West? That's a pity - West was central to the success of the play and heralded for his portrayal. Looks like he's left the production, which is a great pity. So perhaps I'm not so gutted about not catching it now...

C K said...

Hey Karin, surely you could do one of those long weekend trip, no? :)

Didn't manage to catch West's Skilling but Johnson's was convincing enough for me.

Any other plays that you would like to catch given a chance?

Karin said...

You MUST catch All My Sons - the Arthur Miller play starring David Suchet and Zoe Wannamaker. My friend who was up in London just recently said it was the best play she's seen her entire life and she's a regular theatregoer, so that's saying quite a bit. It also made all those hardened theatre critics cry, so definitely worth catching. This is the one play I'd cut my right hand off to catch right now. Particularly because I'm a Suchet fan and he and Zoe are some of the best thesps on the scene at the moment...

C K said...

Thanks for the heads up. Heard that it's a real tear jerker. Will try to catch the show. Cheers!