Eleanor Thornton introduces us to the 2019 Freshers’ Play, Enron by Lucy Prebble.
Enron. The multi-billion dollar company at the forefront of innovation and development driven by a man with unwavering ambition and relentless determination. But all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lucy Prebble’s tale of the fall of the corporate giant explores Shakespearean ideas of hubris, greed and deceit.
When I first read the script, I was instantly drawn to the juxtaposition of bleak drama and savage comedy. I knew I wanted to draw both of those ideas together to recreate the spectacle of the fall of Enron towards the start of the 21st century. Most importantly, this involved keeping up an energetic pace and utilising the tech available to push forward the story.
The play includes some brilliant metaphors that provide comedic relief, explanation of convoluted ideas, and the physical manifestation of greed. It was really important to me that we fully explored these metaphors and presented them in a way that is both entertaining and at the same time thought provoking.
The issue with some adaptations is that they get too deep into the financial theories behind the fall of Enron, potentially at risk alienating some audience members. Therefore, I really wanted to focus on the relationships between the characters by slowly revealing more and more of their true selves. Jeffrey Skilling starts out as a slightly antisocial idealist who remains smugly superior of his own intellect. As others start to notice however, his arrogance grows and is personified by the stock price which links itself to Skilling’s own sanity. As things break down and start going wrong however, we see how the pressure of failure weighs heavy on his shoulders and leaves him ultimately alone.
Likewise, the other major players in the fall of Enron begin with a sense of purpose that drives them forward. For Andy Fastow, it’s the faith and belief of Skilling. For Claudia Roe, it’s the glamour and drive that working at Enron provides. For Ken Lay, it’s the importance of the relationships and perception of his beloved company. As each of these things is ripped away, their true natures are revealed. Petty, angry, vindictive and selfish. Enron explores the poisonous influence of unimaginable wealth and power. But moreover it tells the chilling tale of how our economy, whilst supposedly impassive and numerical, can fall to the whims and shortcomings of man.