Review of ENRON at the Royal Court Theatre
The last projected image you see in Lucy Prebble’s timely new play Enron is a large graph showing characteristic peaks and valleys.
‘All our creations are here,’ says the failed company’s CEO. ‘There’s greed, there’s Fear, Joy, Faith, Hope… and the greatest of these is Money.’
‘Money’ is the last word in the play, and it’s also the first item on Prebble’s agenda. Money is what her play is all about – money, the love of it, and the lengths to which the financial world’s movers and shakers will go to acquire it. It’s hardly a shattering observation and it says nothing about greed that hasn’t been said in countless novels, films and plays before.
But apart from its timeliness, what makes Enron so exciting is director Rupert Goold’s and designer Anthony Ward’s bracingly theatrical appoach to the material.
In telling the now familar story of how, in 15 years, Enron, a Texas-based energy company, grew from nothing to become America’s 7th largest company, employing 21,000 people in 40 countries, and how, through creative accounting, debt concealment and fraudulent dealings, they became the architects of the corporate world’s biggest scandal to date, the show’s creative team have made a theatrical killing.
Initially I was worried that their powerhouse production was in danger of overwhelming Prebble’s text through overkill. The first half, in which you gradually get to know the main players, blurred some of the narrative issues through an excess of stage business and visual affects. At times it almost appeared that Goold had lost confidence in the text and was impelled to gussy up the exposition in case the audience grew bored with its boardroom politics.
But as the performances sharpened, and the almost Greek tragedy-like inevitability began to unfurl, the staging melded seamlessly with the text to create a rare kind of stage magic.
Mark Henderson’s lighting, dominated by a series of mobile neon tubes that changed colour to reflect mood, and a backdrop of video images against a moving electric strip of fluctuating share prices, made quite sure that the occasional dead spots in the text passed more or less unnoticed.
Particularly effective was a great setpiece in which Star War-type laser rods were inventively used to create a series of stunning images.
The three executives who featured most prominently in Enron’s collapse in 2001 were Ken Lay, Enron’s chairman (Tim Piggott-Smith), Jeffrey Skilling, the company’s charismatic chief executive (Samuel West), and Andrew Fastow, its chief financial officer (Tom Goodman- Hill) who, (in this version of the story, at any rate) single-handedly was responsible for devising the scandal that ultimately ruined the company as well as the lives of most of its employees. On the distaff side, the play features a woman called Claudia Roe (Amanda Drew) ‘the fourteenth most powerful woman in the world’ who was also Skilling’s occasional sexual bit on the side and an unsuccesful contender for his job.
All deliver strong, convincing performances (as does the rest of the cast), the single most riveting scene being the one in which the ambitious Fastow convinces a worried Skilling that Enron can be saved by the illegal creation of a ‘shadow company’ to support its falling stock.
Not surprisingly, Enron’s run at the Royal Court is completely sold out. The good news is that it’s transferring to the Noel Coward Theatre on 16 January next year. Book now.
CLIVE HIRSCHHORN. Courtesy of This Is London.
Review of SPEAKING IN TONGUES at the Duke of York’s Theatre
Australian playwright Andrew Bovell first wrote Speaking in Tongues as a play. He then adapted it as a successful screenplay (called Lantana) and now returns to it in its original form. The result is a theatrically exciting fourhander, which, while not without some unsubtle contrivances and hard-tos wallow coincidences, tells us a great deal about marriage, trust, infidelity, and the terrible emotional pain couples are capable of inflicting on one another.
And though the play says nothing we haven’t heard before, the manner chosen by Bovell to get his familiar message across is highly charged and strikingly original.
True, the opening scene in which two couples, unaware of each others’ presence, share the same sleazy hotel bedroom, is a gimmick Alan Ayckbourn used to great comic effect in his play How the Other Half Loves.
Overlapping dialogue and lines spoken in unison give the first ten minutes of the text a rhythmic, choreographed quality that almost outstays its welcome. But as soon as the verbal dust settles and we begin to get a handle on the quartet of adulterers in our midst, the play casts a mesmeric spell as seemingly commonplace emotions become supercharged with importance and significance.
Using the six-degrees-of-separation theory, Bovell ingeniously links the nine characters in the play (performed by four actors) and, despite some loose ends, niftily binds together its two compelling acts. The result is a riveting entertainment, beautifully performed by John Simm, Ian Hart, Lucy Cohu and Kerry Fox.
Apart from an extended (and frankly tedious) sequence in which the characters put the narrative on hold to describe their recurring dreams – Speaking in Tongues is a most welcome addition to the West End.
It’s expertly directed by Toby Frow, and the atmospheric sets and lighting are by Ben Stones and Johanna Town.
One small point: it’s never stated where, exactly, the play is set. The accents are English, though it feels more like Australia. I just mention it.
CLIVE HIRSCHHORN, courtesy of This Is London magazine.
Review of TALENT at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London
If you remember the 1970s, the period nuances in this hilarious musical will make you cringe.
Backstage at a local talent contest in a Mancunian nightclub, would-be singing star Julie (Leanne Rowe – pictured) calms her nerves with Babycham swigged from the bottle. Soon her need for a pee conflicts with her determination to avoid the exboyfriend who has been inconveniently hired as accompanist and a plastic hat has to suffice as potty. This is mere background humour, the counterpoint to a dialogue between Julie and her plump, put-upon friend, Maureen (Suzi Toase) which veers dangerously between cynicism and pathos, but is always funny.
We have come to expect no less from writer and director Victoria Wood, even if this play was dashed off in a few days in a bedsit in 1978. It makes for a fine night out at the Menier in 2009, and not just for its nostalgia value.
None of this is as memorable, however, as the evocation of an era in which many uneducated women faced the bleak prospect of marital drudgery enlivened by the merest whiff of escape via sexual favours and a modicum of talent in the entertainment world.
Suzi Toase gives a wonderfully understated performance. Leanne Rowe exudes a different sort of desperation beneath many layers of blusher. Mark Curry does loathsome, predatory male in a few pelvic thrusts. Thank goodness we are all thirty years older.
SUE WEBSTER, courtesy of This Is London magazine.
Written by the legendary Willy Russell, Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with tragic consequences.
The incredible score includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True. Hailed as one of the best musicals of all time – scooping up no less than four awards for best musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway – Blood Brothers is celebrating 21 years in London’s West End.
Westendtheatre.com users can now save Half Price on tickets to see Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theatre in London
“A MIRACLE! STILL UNMISSABLE AND UNBEATABLE” The Spectator.
“GRIPPING, GRITTY AND SUPERBLY HUMMABLE – IT’S A MUST!” Mail On Sunday.
“THE BEST MUSICAL IN THE WEST END” The Mirror.
In an amazing display of virtuosic skill, Arturo Brachetti brings over one hundred characters to the stage in a unique and spectacular show that simply has to be seen to be believed.
From James Bond to the Queen via Johnny Rotten, he transforms between characters in the blink of an eye in an astonishing display of the time-honoured art of quick change. Arturo’s own distinct brands of humour and charm combine with eye-popping illusions in a show that tells the story of a famed entertainer whose memories of his illustrious career come to life.
With his sensational costumes and eye popping illusions, the multi award-winning Brachetti has performed to a global audience of over one million people and now comes to London for just 10 weeks. A truly unique theatrical experience, don’t miss CHANGE at the Garrick Theatre.
“This Italian Superstar is astounding”. The Hollywood Reporter
“He will make your jaw drop” The Sunday Times
Today in London Andrew Lloyd Webber launched his new Phantom sequel Love Never Dies.
The brand new musical will star current London Phantom Ramin Karimloo and American actress Sierra Boggess as Christine.
At a launch event at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, current home of The Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber revealed how he struggled for years to find a suitable plot for the sequel. Despite working with novelist Frederick Forsythe on a follow-up story set in Manhattan, it was discussions with Ben Elton (We Will Rock You) that sparked the new plot for the show by suggesting that the sequel should follow the story’s original characters.
This long-awaited new show will have its world premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in London on Tuesday 9 March 2010 followed by a New York opening on 11 November and Australian debut in 2011.
The new musical is set 10 years after the first, and sees the Phantom move from the Paris Opera House to haunt the fairgrounds of Coney Island near New York, billed in its hay day as one of the great wonders of the world.
The original musical has been seen by over 100 million people worldwide and is billed by Lloyd Webber’s company the Really Useful Group as the single most successful entertainment entity in history.
At the launch event in London a full orchestra played the new show’s dramatic opening waltz set against a film that highlighted the significance of Coney Island at the time. Ramin Karimloo also sang a number from the show. The Iranian-Canadian actor became the West End’s youngest ever Phantom when he took on the role at Her Majesty’s theatre in 2007, aged 29.
Sierra Boggess, who was present at the launch but did not sing, was the original lead role in The Little Mermaid on Broadway and has played Christine in the Las Vegas production of Phantom.
The original cast album will be released on 11 March, a day after the world premiere in London.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music features lyrics by Glenn Slater, who penned the lyrics for current West End hit Sister Act, and will be choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (Hairspray, Legally Blonde) and directed by Jack O’Brien (Hairspray).
All hail David Pugh, producer of Calendar Girls and clearly a casting genius. In what’s becoming the Vagina Monologues of its day, the Calendar Girls cast is having another clear out and importing a dizzyingly camp and comedic troupe of new actresses.
Disrobing from 3 November, the new cast will include camp icon and longtime Coronation Street actress Julie Goodyear; model, presenter and actress Kelly Brook; respected Olivier award-winning actress Janie Dee; ex news reader and I’m A Celebrity contestant Jan Leeming; and an array of great British female comedy talent, including wild-eyed Helen Lederer, the Fast Show’s Arabella Weir and TittyBangBang’s Debbie Chazen.
The new cast will perform at the Noel Coward Theatre until 9 January, when the show will move to a new theatre to make room for the Royal Court’s celebrated production Enron.
With standing ovations every night, the phenomenal musical We Will Rock You continues to pack them in at the Dominion Theatre in London.
Legendary band Queen, fronted by the dynamic Freddie Mercury before his death in 1991, have been making music together since the 70’s and have now joined forces with writer Ben Elton to bring their unique sound to the theatre.
This mega-musical, seen by over 5 million people, includes 32 of Queen’s classic hits, including Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, and more. One dream… one vision… one smash hit – book today!
Set in the future, on a place once called Earth, globalisation is complete and everyone watches the same movies, wears the same clothes, and thinks the same thoughts. A safe, happy Ga Ga world.
The Company Computers generate the music and the kids download it. All musical instruments are banned. But resistance is growing.
A hero is needed.
Is the one who calls himself Galileo that man, and can he help them Break Free…?
Tips and advice on getting from London’s airports to the centre of town, and using public transport to get around London.
Getting to and from London airports
When you fly into London you will arrive at one of the capital’s five airports – all of which are an hour or less from central London: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton or City Airport.
Train travel from London’s major airports can be expensive but it’s often the quickest option. At Heathrow and Gatwick airports you also need to decide between fast but expensive services such as Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express and the mainline train companies, who offer cheaper but slightly slower alternatives.
Heathrow Express to Paddington station in approx 15 minutes.
Heathrow Connect (which is cheaper) to Paddington station in approx 25 minutes.
Gatwick Express to Victoria station in approx 30 minutes.
Southern trains to Victoria station in approx 40 minutes.
First Capital Connect trains to London Bridge station in approx 30 minutes.
A shuttle bus (5 minutes) to Luton Airport Parkway station, then First Capital Connect trains to St Pancras station in approx 30 – 40 minutes.
Stansted Express to London Liverpool Street station in approx 45 minutes.
Dockland’s Light Railway from London City Airport to Bank station in approx 25 minutes.
By far the cheapest way of getting from the airport to central London is by bus – but only if you have the time. The bus companies run fares from as low as £2.
NationalExpress: travel between central London and Luton, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
Heathrow: Number 9 night bus to Trafalgar Square: Transport For London
BY LONDON UNDERGROUND:
Travelling by tube is only really an option from Heathrow to central London, although at only £4 full fare (and as low as £2.20 with an Oyster Card off-peak) it’s a good budget choice.
London Heathrow airport to central London on the Piccadilly line (blue) in approx 50 minutes to 1 hour (to Piccadilly Circus): Transport For London
London black cabs are expensive by most world city standards but make sense if there are a few of you (up to 5) travelling. See approximate taxi fares here.
Private hire and mini cab companies run airport transfers to all the major London airports. Companies include Addison Lee.
Unless you plan to combine a trip to London with other places in the UK, then hiring a car is an expensive option in London given hire car costs, the congestion charge in central London and parking fees.
Parking: If you are staying out of London but driving in for the theatre then make use of Westminster City Council Car Park’s Theatreland Parking Scheme. You can save 50% on your car parking charge by driving to a participating car park and taking a paper ticket upon entry. Then at the West End theatre you are attending ask the box-office staff to validate your paper ticket using their special validation machine. When you return to the car park and insert your paper ticket in the payment machine you’ll enjoy a 50% discount off the standard casual tariff. The participating car parks are: Chinatown; Pimlico; Leicester Square; Soho; Marble Arch / Park Lane; Trafalgar Square; Oxford Street. See more details of theatres and corresponding car parks here.
When hiring a car it’s worth getting Car Hire Excess insurance to protect yourself against the excess charges you are expected to pay if the car is damaged. You can insure yourself rather than the car and choose between annual policies for unlimited car hire or day rates. Taking out independent excess insurance is cheaper than taking out a car hire company’s excess insurance policy. Read more about Car Hire Excess Insurance at CarHireInsure.
For further information and contacts for Car Hire companies please visit here.
Parking at the airport:
It’s usually cheaper and easier to pre-book if you intend on parking at one of London’s airports. See Purple Parking for details.
Getting around London
London has an extensive (and expensive) public transport system to whisk you around London. Run by Transport for London (TfL) you will find a wealth of maps and resources online at Transport For London
London’s eleven tube routes provide the fastest way of getting around town – but are not great for sightseeing! All you have to work out is which coloured line you need to travel on and in which direction (northbound, eastbound, southbound or westbound).
If you plan to be nipping about on tubes and buses then buy an Oyster Card for Visitors.
Ken Livingstone may have had his faults but there have never been so many buses on London roads. The days of waiting days for a bus are gone – and with electronic timetable signage at many bus stops and helpful automated signage and announcements on the bus it’s easy to get around.
On many buses you now need to buy a ticket BEFORE boarding – from one of the machines at the bus stop or from an Underground station. Bus passes, Travelcards and Oyster Cards are all a good idea to make life easier and cheaper.
London’s metered black cabs are expensive for single travellers, but if there’s a few of you (up to 5) then it often makes sense. Plus every black cab driver has to take the ‘Knowledge’ test so knows London like the back of his hand.
Minicabs and private hire taxis must now be licensed in London – and you should only take a mini cab that features one of the blue Transport for London “Private Hire” stickers in their car window. The CabWise service provided by TfL will text you the numbers of one taxi and two licensed minicab firms in the area you are texting from. Text HOME to 60835 (only within the UK) to get the numbers or see more on hiring mini-cabs here.
If you fancy some thrills and spills on the streets of London then bicycle taxis and rickshaws are everywhere – particularly outside West End theatres after the show.
It’s not as scary as you might think, but driving in London requires a bit of planning. The Congestion Charge zone is an area of central London that you have to pay £8 per day to enter on Mondays to Fridays 7am to 6pm. There are no toll booths or barriers – but rather cameras patrol the zone and you need to pay the charge online or call 0845 900 1234 or pay at selected service stations or newsagents.
Parking can be expensive – although if you are going to the theatre you can save up to 50% (see Parking above).
The ambition is for a whole network of Thames river boats to become an important means of transport in London. The current reality is rather different with a limited service of Thames River Boats – and quite expensive fares. However, it does make for a fun way to travel. There are also a number of Thames River Cruise services available.
Westendtheatre.com is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. Please check all information before you book or travel.
The global economic crisis has seen hotel rates fall by up to 10% in London. That means there are some great deals out there – you just need to find them. The type of deal you get depends on your preferences, so we’ve broken down some of the options:
Theatre and Hotel packages
Westendtheatre.com has negotiated rates with a range of hotels across London to combine with our great value theatre tickets. These packages make it easier than ever for you to see a show in London and stay in a comfortable hotel. See more information on booking our hotel and theatre packages here for all the major London shows.
Book a flight and hotel package
There are savings to be made by booking a flight AND Hotel together. Flight agents have direct relationships with the airlines and hotels and often provide good value packages. Top flight and hotel agents include Ebookers and Discount Hotel Reservations.
The right hotel
The star system in the UK is a useful and trusted guide to gauging the venue’s facilities but doesn’t always help to find something of quality within your price range. Turn to sites such as Tripadvisor to read about people’s experiences in specific hotels in London. Also Hotelchatter features everything related to hotels and lodging around the world including hotel deals and reviews, which celebrities are staying where and hotel industry news.
Big international sites like Hotels.com, Discount Hotel Reservations and Ebookers have big buying power so do a good job negotiating discount room rates. However, it’s always worth double-checking with the hotel’s own website in case they are running a deal or promotion running.
Big hotel chains that have multiple hotels in London include:
- Accor Hotels (which include the Ibis, Sofitel, Novotel and Mecure chains)
- Best Western Hotels
- Hilton Hotels
- Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotels
Luxury five-star hotels in London that may have deals running include:
Be careful when booking rooms that are ‘On Request’ – which means that the website checks availability manually with the hotel and comes back to you. This can be irritating if you have to wait to hear from them whilst missing out on cheap deals elsewhere. Try and always go for ‘instant confirmation’ bookings.
Top Secret Deals
Discounts can also be found through Top Secret Hotel deals from sites such as LastMinute.com. They will give you the star rating of the hotel and a general guide to the facilities but you won’t know the hotel name or where it is. This can sometimes be a big gamble in London – which is a city spread out over quite a large area. That said, most of the swankiest hotels in London are very central – so it can be a great way of saving money at the top end of the market. Also, to minimise the mystery and practice your best Sherlock Holmes impersonation, google the hotel description before you book to try and work out which hotel it might be, or look up the amenities on Betterbidding.
You can also bid for hotel rooms with websites such as Priceline, using its Name Your Own Price tool. Like Top Secret Hotels, you don’t get to know which specific hotel you are booking but do get to choose the area and star rating. You have to agree to pay immediately if your bid is successful.
It’s sometimes worth checking out websites designed for visitors travelling to other countries to check out London hotel deals. For example Agoda, Wotif and Asiarooms all provide London hotels – occasionally at great rates.
Cheap and Cheerful
If hotels are out of your league in London then try some cheaper alternatives:
Camping – yes London does have campsites, although it’s a brave person who attempts this in winter. UKcampsite lists a range of sites – some only a short journey to central London.
Stay on a friendly couch: why not crash on someone’s sofa – and return the favour – all for free with Couchsurfing and their worldwide network of hosts. Also Airbnb lists people who will let you stay in their spare room for money.
Rent a flat: Sometimes it’s more civilised – and cheaper – to have your own space, and be able to cook your own food. London is notoriously expensive for eating out, so renting a holiday flat could be a good option. Try Homeaway or Holidaylettings for hundreds of options.
Travelodge is a UK wide chain that offers some great deals on its London hotels (especially if you book in advance) – and they are expanding fast. Current locations include Tower Bridge, Covent Garden and Euston.
Easyhotel: the EasyJet company has five hotels in London: Earl’s Court, Heathrow, Paddington, South Kensington and Victoria.
Student accommodation and Bed & Breakfasts: many of the capital’s universities let out student rooms in holiday periods. Plus there are a number of B&Bs across the capital. Check out Travelstay.
By Paul Raven.
Westendtheatre.com is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. Please check all information before you book or travel.