In a Fringe environment saturated with professional theatre, as well as aspirational students clawing at the throats of pre-professional placements, it is easy to forget that so many of us got involved in the arts, at least at first, for the sheer pleasure of it. Edinburgh Theatre Arts serve to remind all of us, with this year's production of Lucy Prebble's Enron, of the pure joy of doing theatre.

Heavy-handed performances and pantomime accents see Prebble’s naturalistic script struggling under this rendition

Enron follows the eponymous company’s scandal, one of the biggest cases of corporate misconduct in financial history, in which stocks and shares in theoretical commodities (e.g. electricity) took over from physical resources as the basis of the stock exchange, leading in part to a huge market crash. 

Prebble's script is notoriously ambitious – with song, dance, and velociraptors. Her peculiar tone of apocalyptic irreverence is difficult to capture, and the script demands a great deal from cast, designers, and technicians alike.

John McLinden's production for Edinburgh Theatre Arts tries in earnest to replicate the sense of spectacle that the play requires, with a three-tier set crammed into St Ninian's Church Hall, complete with television screens and on-set projection, nodding to the multimedia aspects of Goold's original London production. Compromises made for practicality, unfortunately, crush the ambition that was first suggested by this choice of text, and the set is more ungainly than it is dramatically overbearing. Misaligned projection onto the set, and tiny TV screens detract from the gravity that Prebble would seem to aim towards. Alterations made to certain songs (presumably for simplification), at least, do not too far distract from the overall effect.

This being said, there were some every strong performances from members of the Edinburgh Theatre Arts company, particularly in the roles comprising the chorus. Standing out in particular were Ben Petrie, whose ventriloquising and dancing were as mesmerising as his credible characterisation, and Margaret McPherson, whose poise, characterisation, and vocal stylings would far outstrip those of countless professional actresses of her age.

The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for lead actors. Heavy-handed performances and pantomime accents see Prebble’s naturalistic script struggling under this rendition. This is further damaged by inconsistent direction from John McLinden, who has missed the mark here, rendering Prebble’s script somewhere between grave financial tragedy and parodic musical comedy. Edinburgh Theatre Arts show themselves, with this production of Enron, to be not only lovers of theatre, but engaged and aware followers of the Arts. This is Community Theatre, but not as we know it – while this company may not comprise of theatre-makers, they come together to produce interesting repertoire, and the joy they find is absolute tangible. With its low production value and somewhat disappointing results, this show treads the line between ‘merry minstrels’ and 'rude mechanicals'. 

Reviews by Ryan Hay

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The Blurb

‘We are on the side of Angels’ says Enron’s Jeff Skilling, the leading player in one of the most infamous financial scandals in corporate history. Lucy Prebble transforms this true story into an engaging theatrical and multimedia spectacle. Mixing classical tragedy with savage comedy, political satire with modern morality, the play unveils a narrative of power, greed and loss which reflects the culture of the 1990s and casts a revealing light on the flawed people and conditions which allow huge financial deception to flourish. Witness this unique production in the special, intimate atmosphere of St Ninian’s Hall.