If I were to use only one word to describe Joseph Cunningham and Katie Brennan’s production of Enron, by Lucy Prebble, it would be this: style. In its manipulation of Venue One, the energy and vitality of its cast, and its precise use of stage properties, Enron has shown St Andrews that it is a beast with class.
Cunningham was fortunate to have such a strong cast to help carry his vision of the show. Baxter Gaston, Sarah Pollock, and Wendell Krebs each took full possession of their roles. Indeed, if the show had consisted entirely of the interplay between Gaston and Krebs (playing Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and CFO Andrew Fastow respectively) I would have still enjoyed myself. The two played off one another with confidence, and that they were revelling in what they did was clearly conveyed to the audience.
It should not be forgotten that this was very much an ensemble cast, despite the powerful leads. Whether they were clamouring for a sale, demanding answers from Skilling as members of the press, or engaged in a choreographed dance piece that made me feel I was on the set of Tron, the cast filled every portion of their performance with energy. In a town where big productions can be let down by their auxiliary members, Enron demanded much from its cast and was well rewarded.
To enjoy the show best, one had to have a competitive edge. Staged in promenade, there were many instances of rushing from set to set, fighting to gain a spot at the front of the crowd. Ducking through the audience to claim a good view, I couldn’t help but feel a sort of relationship between myself and the hard-edged executives of the play. In that hall, both audience and cast were fighting for what they believed was theirs to claim. This was an enjoyable shift from many recent attempts at making use of Venue One, where the very size of the place often inhibits shows staged there.
There were, at times, instances where I found watching the show in promenade tiresome. Some scenes may have benefited from taking place upon the stage, where more members of the audience may have seen them. Andrew Fastow’s delightfully creepy dancing Raptors, for instance, were so crowded in during their number that it was nigh impossible to see anything but their bobbing heads.
Both tech and stage properties in Enron were used with admirable confidence and precision. There were no awkward pauses as the cast waited for a lighting or sound cue, set pieces did not fall over, props did not break. Cunningham and co. have left these types of hurdles for other shows to stumble over, and Enron achieved a slick, artful use of tech. I am always hesitant when approaching a big show put up in our little town. Mermaids are a University theatre group, and shouldn’t be expected to match West End or Broadway standards. Enron challenges the stereotypical assumptions of a University drama group and proves that a student performance can indeed face-up to the professional world, whilst still retaining the inherent charm that comes from a young production team.
In all, Enron was a pleasure to watch, and I am excited to see what shows this team might bring to St Andrews in the future.
Photo credits: PINUP