At the height of the crisis, in November 2008, the Queen asked a room of academics at the London School of Economics what could be the key question of the last few years: “Why did nobody see this coming?”
It is a question seized on by David Hare in his new play, The Power of Yes, but which is arguably better answered by Lucy Prebble (a Londoner in her 20s) in her play Enron, which debuted in London’s West End last night, and which ostensibly has nothing to do with the credit crisis and its aftermath.
Enron‘s West End debut, especially for those who, like me, were seeing the play for the first time, was a triumph. The acting was compelling and believable, especially from Sam West, who as Jeff Skilling managed to make a seamless transition from maths nerd to master of the universe. This was coupled with the kind of spectacular pyrotechnics that audiences expect from a Rupert Goold production, including a stunning representation of 9/11 (an event not exactly easy to re-create within the confines of a West End stage). Nor were the special effects out of place: Prebble explained recently in the FT that part of the point of the elaborate staging was to capture something of the out-of-control nature of Enron itself.
But the real star was the writing. Some of it seemed too prescient to have been written before the current crisis, and Prebble says in the FT piece that she re-wrote parts for the West End. But in one scene, which must have been there from the play’s inception, she captures perfectly how Enron got into the position it did and why no one saw it coming, and it is a scene that translates perfectly for the current crisis.