A savage satire of corporate crime

<strong>Theatre</strong><strong><br />ENRON<br /></strong>Royal Court Theatre<br />POST credit crunch, the Enron collapse might seem like a disaster from another age. But in Lucy Prebble&rsquo;s scintillating play the scandal is shown as the blueprint for the meltdowns that came after it. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a strange thing goes on inside a bubble,&rdquo; says one character. &ldquo;People inside it can&rsquo;t see outside, don&rsquo;t believe there is an outside, and get glazed over.&rdquo; <br /><br />But this is more than a work about greed. It&rsquo;s a multimedia spectacular, an all-singing, all-dancing look into the eye of the storm, with director Rupert Goold summoning all the stage trickery he can muster to bring things to life. A bunch of dinosaurs lurking in the Enron basement represent shadow funds feeding on hidden debt; the deregulation of energy markets is told through a light-sabre dance; and Enron chairman Ken Lay (Tim Piggot-Smith) preaches his company&rsquo;s doctrine while seemingly standing on top of the exploding Twin Towers of 9/11. <br /><br />At the heart of the action is Jeff Skilling, the amoral nerd who turned Enron from an energy company into a trading colossus. Samuel West delivers a blazing performance as Skilling, while Piggot-Smith as Lay and Tom Goodman-Hill as accounting brainiac Andy Fastow are also riveting. <br /><br />Savagely funny, Enron is a satirical epic for our times and there is clearly an appetite for it. It made its debut at Chichester&rsquo;s Minerva theatre in the summer and is already booked into the West End for January. That it is only the second play from an English writer who was just 20 when Enron fell is quite astounding.<br /><br />Timothy Barber<br /><br /><strong>Opera<br />LE GRAND MACABRE</strong><br />English National Opera<br />THIS dark comic masterpiece by Ligeti is literally explosive. Gunshots, sirens, and flame all play a part in a roaring, outrageous, belief-beggaring new production by Catalan &ldquo;total theatre&rdquo; company La Fura dels Baus, the group behind the famous opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.<br /><br />The story is an &ldquo;end-of-the-world-is-nigh&rdquo; spoof that&rsquo;s half hilarious and half grotesque. The grim reaper, called Nekrotzar, sets out to destroy all humanity by midnight &ndash; from a dissolute drunkard to the incessantly copulating couple played by two women clad as skinned bodies to an S&amp;M couple consisting of a woman with an enormous hanging breast suit and a man in pink drag. But guess what? Nekrotzar is impotent and humanity parties on.<br /><br />But more relevant to this production is not that people keep discoing on, but where they disco: inside the intestines of an enormous naked woman who is the show&rsquo;s constant backdrop. She&rsquo;s easily the most expressive, impressive and unsettling piece of stage scenery I&rsquo;ve seen. Whether her eyes roll back in her head, light up with eerie neon or spew little human figures onto the stage, she is the perfect emblem of the ridiculousness of life, and the horror of death. She makes Le Grand Macabre a must-see. <br /><br />Zoe Strimpel<br /><br /><strong>Film<br />THE SOLOIST<br /></strong>Cert: 12A<br />HOLLYWOOD loves classical musicians, so long as they&rsquo;re terribly ill or terribly mad. In the case of The Soloist, Jamie Foxx&rsquo;s Nathaniel Ayres is a cellist who trained at New York&rsquo;s prestigious Juilliard school before schizophrenia condemned him to a life on the streets of Los Angeles. That&rsquo;s where Robert Downey Jr&rsquo;s journalist finds him, and tries to save him.<br /><br />Directed by Joe Wright, whose previous work includes Atonement, The Soloist is a peculiar, unsatisfying film that seems misconceived. Wright&rsquo;s visual flights of fancy and depiction of LA&rsquo;s gutter life divert from the two men&rsquo;s story, and even the sense of music&rsquo;s inspiratoinal power runs cold. The actors are fine, but it&rsquo;s a picture that&rsquo;s more alienating than elevating.<br /><br />TB