Yesterday evening we went to see Enron at Birmingham Rep – currently touring the UK. It has to be one of the most written-about plays of recent years, seeming to be much more popular in the UK than it was when it ran on Broadway (perhaps the moral message of the evils of business and corporate life in the US have different resonances in the US).
It does seem unlikely that Lucy Prebble’s play about corporate greed and where it all went wrong should be such a hit. After all, how many of us really understood what happened with Enron? Yet somehow this play links the issues raised by the Enron scandal – of corporate responsibility, deregulation, greed, and other more specific issues – to human nature, and to the 21st century world (and recession). Moreover, the play uses music and special effects to bring the bankruptcy of Enron to an apocalyptic climax, linking it to 9/11 as a great human tragedy.
I wanted to see Enron to see what all the fuss was about. For the first ten minutes I was thinking, this isn’t my kind of thing; I’m going to be bored. But I wasn’t bored; actually, what this play does is demonstrate how any subject can be a good subject for the stage, because what the theatre can do is link the personal with the universal on a dramatic scale that makes one see things differently.