Theatre Black money As Lucy Prebble’s hit play on the Enron scandal arrives in Edinburgh, Steve Cramer chews over its topical subject matter with actress Sara Stewart
THE BEST THEATRE & DANCE
N O S T R E B O R S A L G U O D
✽✽ A Doll’s House Powerful, stylish updating of Ibsen’s influential play by Dundee Rep’s ensemble. Dundee Rep, until Sat 6 Nov. ✽✽ Spring Awakening Grid Iron and Douglas Maxwell transfer Frank Wedekind’s 19th century play to the Calvinist society of turn-of-the-century Scotland. See review, page 84. Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 13 Nov. ✽✽ The Importance of Being Earnest Excellent new production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘trivial play for serious people’. See review, page 84. Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 20 Nov. ✽✽ Breakin’ Convention The international festival of hip hop dance theatre returns to Edinburgh with some of the best dance, beatboxing and DJing in the UK. See preview, page 14. Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Mon 8 & Tue 9 Nov. ✽✽ Enron Lucy Prebble’s acclaimed exploration of the largest bankruptcy scandal in American history arrives north of the border. See preview, left. King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 9–Sat 13 Nov. ✽✽ Alston The ever-popular Richard Alston Dance Company performs a revival of the popular Light Flooding Into Darkened Rooms. See preview, page 82. Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Fri 12 Nov. ✽✽ Bonnie & Clyde Redux Proto-type Theatre company reimagine the lives of the legendary bank-robbing pair through a seductive collage of performance and multi-media. See preview, page 82. Arches, Glasgow, Thu 18 & Fri 19 Nov. ✽✽ Disgo The international dance company of Fleur Darkin take an intimate journey into night in a raw and powerful new work. See preview, page 82. Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 18 & Fri 19 Nov. 4–18 Nov 2010 THE LIST 81
At last year’s Edinburgh Festival, only the National Theatre of Scotland’s Caledonia, an enjoyable if not completely successful production based around the Darien misadventure of the late 17th century, addressed the current financial crisis. The reason many theatre makers have given for the silence on this matter is that the subject of economics is a dull affair, that doesn’t make for good theatre, as if high-level fraud and corruption, people being thrown onto dole queues, out of their homes and onto streets, were quite the most undramatic scenario imaginable.
If that’s the case, it’s hard to see why Lucy Prebble’s Enron has become one of the most celebrated theatrical events of the last decade in London. The play focuses on the financial scandal that unfolded over the turn of the 21st century and prefigured, with uncanny precision the collapse of our financial institutions across the world in more recent times.
According to Edinburgh-born actress Sara Stewart, who plays Claudia Roe, a rare sympathetic character in the piece, the play’s appeal is due to the clarity and force with which it tells the story. ‘It shows the layman how we’re all being taken for a ride,’ she explains. ‘It examines the whole house of cards, where people’s savings are simply being gambled. I did some research into this last year and until then I was pretty ignorant of this area, as most people are. When I found out about such things as hedge funds in detail I was really appalled to think of what was done with my money after I put it in the
bank. These bankers are simply participating in a sanctioned form of gambling.’ Perhaps the most sobering thing about the play is the way in which no significant steps have been taken to reverse the wave of deregulation that caused the problem, as Stewart points out. ‘One of the things the show talks about is the fact that Enron is history, but the types of activities involved are still going on. It doesn’t seem as if we’ve really learned anything. I think people don’t really appreciate the full ramifications of what’s going on. It’s a bit like taking your car to the mechanic, and getting charged for all sorts of things that aren’t wrong with the car, but on a huge scale. Just as those mechanics exploit your ignorance of the car, there’s a lot of flannel around the economics of this that keeps people in the dark about where the money is going.’
So, a dry, dull affair? Well, there’s a good deal of humour, song, dance and even dinosaurs on stage throughout the piece, which, unless the English critics are deluded, amounts to an enthralling entertainment. More to the point, the play has had a genuine impact on audiences, as a single anecdote from Stewart illustrates. ‘I met one woman who worked in the city financial sector, who took her daughter to Enron. Straight after the show, the daughter, who was quite ashen, turned to her mother and said, “I don’t care what I do when I grow up, but I’m not doing what you do.”’ And they say art never changes anything. King’ Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 9–Sat 13 Nov.
APPALLED TO THINK OF WHAT WAS
BEING DONE TO MY MONEY’