Enron, Noel Coward Theatre, London

3.00

For a reviewer, there's always the temptation, when you haven't seen the premiere of some big hit, to dissent from the critical consensus when the successful show transfers, trailing clouds of glory, to the West End. This practice can win you Brownie points for independence of mind; it can also, by that token, be deeply disingenuous.

But if I don't sincerely mean what I am about to say in relation to Enron, one of the allegedly landmark moments in 21st-century drama, then it's at a level inaccessible to introspection. I can absolutely see why Lucy Prebble's play and Rupert Goold's production received ecstatic reviews when it opened last summer in Chichester. One of the impulses behind these notices must have been the sheer relief that I, too, would have experienced, had illness not prevented me from seeing the piece. As it traces the collapse of the outrageous corporate con trick pulled by the Enron energy company, both the script and the staging make vividly intelligible such fiendishly twisted concepts as mark-to-market. It is also the kind of production that, with its big visual ideas, is easy to write about. No one ever went down in a reviewer's star-rating for being both intellectual tricky and brashly obvious.

I read the text of Enron in preparation for seeing David Hare's verbatim piece on the global financial meltdown, The Power of Yes. I admired Prebble's piercing and principled clarity. But watching the production for the first time now, it struck me as, well, a just a tad sophomoric, or at least what a bright, ambitious undergraduate might concoct if s/he had a healthy budget. Take the men in business suits with raptor heads who are supposed to symbolise the ravenous shadow companies. These figures should look morally repulsive; instead, they look shallowly risible. Each of them resembles some absentee father banker who, while trying to give his kid some rare quality time, has got his head stuck in some dinosaur Disneyland plastic mask. Collectively, they could be a support group for such men.

This brings me to the undernourishment of the relationships in the piece. Samuel West brings some masterly moral shading to Faustian über-geek, Jeffrey Skilling. But the scenes with his little daughter, designed to show him as guilty and emotionally inadequate, are themselves guilty of emotional inadequacy in both the writing and the staging. So much of the show seems vestigial of an earlier plan to make it a musical. I've heard the defence that the gesticulating song-and-dance traders and the light-sabre-wielding Jedi are supposed to make one cringe slightly. Mmm. This seems to me close to that other kind of defence: "It's about boredom; it has a right to be boring", which is vacuous in its circularity. While I would not go as far as to say that this is a soulless take on a soulless world, I will say that alternative values are not feelingly enough implied and that if anyone fancies writing the masterpiece of financial meltdown, the field is still wide open.

To 8 May (0844 579 1940)

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power