Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jonny Sweet's Mostly About Arthur and Enron

They're not linked in any way, other than the fact that I've seen them both relatively recently (but only relatively in the cosmic sense as Calvin would say; in the case of Sweet especially I'm positively tardy) and that they are both very good.

Sweet - you might have seen him in The Inbetweeners or as young Dave Cameron in When Boris Met Dave - won the Best Newcomer prize at last year's Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and while I happily supported his nomination having seen him excel in Party and with fellow Inbetweeners stars Simon Bird and Joe Thomas as sketch group The House of Windsor, I have to admit I'd missed his show. Nice of the Soho Theatre, then, to have Sweet and Tim Key playing the same run, making for a lovely double-bill; two shows in one night - it's a little taste of the Fringe in deepest, darkest February!

The show is a delight, as I fully expected it to be. Jonny plays a version of himself who has lost a brother, the finest blurbist (writer of blurbs, natch) of his generation, savagely eaten to death by an average sized dog. Jonny's aim is to get his brother more recognition, and does this through a dodgy PowerPoint presentation, readings of the best blurbs and a short play involving members of the audience as a table and coffee machine. What's especially great about this production, (as well as the heavy involvement of the word blurbist, which is inherently funny) is Jonny's willingness to come across as a complete, if not unlikeable, tool - he is self-obsessed and prone to lengthy digression; nice, you might say, but dim.

Dim is not something of which you could accuse anyone involved in the Enron scandal (smooooooth). Money-grabbing, delusional and desperate for sure, but these were highly intelligent people corrupted by power, but willingly and, this play suggests, knowingly so. The reviews of this have been almost uniformly glowing, and it's hard not to be boringly concordant - the lead performances from Sam West, Tim Piggot-Smith, Amanda Drew and (always a favourite of mine, and generally underrated I think) Tom Goodman-Hill are all engrossing and it is consistently hugely entertaining, and often very funny. Which, for a show about economics (and it really is; personal relationships are in there, but it's the rise and fall of the company that is really foregrounded) is pretty impressive.

My only complaint might be that writer Lucy Prebble is so anxious to Make Economics Fun that she throws almost a bit too much at this - it's entertaining enough without a barbershop quartet and the Lehman brothers in a single oversized suit, I think - but that's real nit-picking, and probably churlish. Enron portrays ridiculous highs and devastating lows equally well, looks stunning, makes some nice pop culture references and acts as a stark and affecting warning against unchecked greed.


Roo said...

I know what you mean but on balance I'm always grateful to have too much fun as opposed to not enough. And mostly it stayed just the right side of patronising.

David said...

But the Lehman brothers in a single oversized suit were very funny nonetheless! Thought it was great and highly deserving of its
5* reviews.

Anna Lowman (annawaits) said...

Of course you're right, Roo, definitely better to have too much! And Lehman bros were *quite* funny ;)