First Night: Enron, Minerva Theatre, Chichester

4.00

A compelling tragedy of modern capitalism

After what's happened in the past few years, no-one should be surprised if our theatre comes up, at last, with a compelling tragedy of modern capitalism: the collapse of Enron, America's seventh largest corporation, going from $70m (£42.5m) of building plants and natural gas and electricity supplies to bankruptcy in just 24 days, is the signature story of the age.

The ridiculous explosion of wealth was based on trading without it, building an empire on shadows, with false figures and the lunatic excitement of the trading floor. This wonderful new show directed by Rupert Goold for Chichester, his own touring company Headlong and the Royal Court (where it lands in September) is an update of Caryl Churchill's Serious Money and the Michael Douglas movie Wall Street for the post- September 11 generation.

For the symbolic implosion of the twin towers followed soon after the collapse of Enron and is built into the play as a powerful metaphor of the price to be paid for blind greed and the logical extension of corporate corruption. Everything about Enron was about operating a system for the personal gain of the Houston, Texas, owners and executives at the expense of the shareholder.

Playwright Lucy Prebble – only her second play – bravo! – dramatises the obscenity of this in scenes between Samuel West's geeky-into-viciously sleek Enron president Jeffrey Skilling and a loyal, newly impoverished worker and the security guard whose dreams he's ruined.

The financial and political manoeuvrings are humanised at every turn, as Skilling outwits the brilliant Amanda Drew's sexpot rival (and also his office lover) for the presidency and bounces off the ingenious criminality of Tom Goodman-Hill's fair-faced financial controller, Andy Fastow.

The city-suited three blind mice of the opening sequence are soon replaced by the voracious armadillos of the debtors' court. These bestial figures indicate the expressionist side of Goold's production, which hangs the acting space with celestial neon-lit pipes and deploys the cast of chloric traders and office workers in the regimented choreography of Scott Ambler. The sensual excitement in trading in the markets is conveyed with real ingenuity and panache.

We have a comic double act of the Lehman Brothers, sharing a suit and a pitch, the schmutter and the patter. We see Skilling outpacing Fastow on the running treadmill in a funny scene of physical domination. And we see Skilling himself tipping into madness as he follows the sudden windfall of deregulation in the electricity business after the unexpected Bush triumph in the 2000 presidential election with a nutcase proposal of offering shares in the weather.

It's both a sharp, satirical diagnosis of the state we're in, as well as a new Brechtian epic of the rise and fall of a gangster produced and legitimised by the environment of the day. West builds an appropriately resonant performance, stuck on the simply devastating questions of his own daughter and the vanity of his own campaign. And he also pulls off the not inconsiderable feat of allowing us to like him.

Anthony Ward's design incorporates the best projections (by Jon Driscoll) we've seen for a long time, clear videos of Alan Greenspan and Bill Clinton ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman"), as well as a blizzard of market figures, a tickertape of falling shares and a cityscape of office blocks that dissolves like snowflakes in the sun.

Tim Pigott-Smith draws a fine portrait of the avuncular Enron owner and golf-lover, Ken Lay, while a really outstanding back-up cast also includes Susannah Fellowes in various guises, Gillian Budd and Eleanor Matsuura as cunningly deployed news reporters and Orion Lee as a sonorous senator who leads the enquiry into the whole tragic catastrophe.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect