Behind the Scenes of ENRON - Costume & Set Design

Tuesday 30th July 2013

By Sarah Lewis, Designer of ENRON

A DESIGN CHALLENGE

Enron has been an incredibly exciting piece to design for, not to mention a pretty interesting challenge! I previously had a vague awareness of the Enron scandal, but the research I’ve conducted into the world of big business and the stock market has been a really fascinating journey.

I initially read the script at the beginning of the year (in between the Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood panto shows, on which I was working as a dresser. Big business scandal made for quite a contrast in between larks with the Dame!) It was an exciting script to read – punchy and energetic, using a series of metaphors throughout, to help convey the complex ideas and situations – offering some early design ideas.

RESEARCHING THE DESIGN

Watching The Smartest Guys in the Room, the documentary film about the scandal was pretty key to my research, showing the actual spaces the Enron Company resided in – the huge reflective skyscraper, home to their offices in Houston, Texas. A useful image depicted was that of the levels of space the different ranks of employees worked in – the large offices on the mezzanine levels above, towering over the downstairs space of the trading floor.

This gave me a concept to work with. In mirroring this sort of set up, it not only offered an interesting use of different acting levels, but gave a real sense of the hierarchy of power – the bosses, at the top, lording over the traders below.

DESIGNING THE SET

The set needed a new dimension for the purposes of the script though – one of the key points in the scandal is that, hidden beneath the gleam of the company, were the lies and corruption, and the hiding of billions of dollars’ worth of debt. At the root of this, according to the script, was Andy Fastow, so I situated his ‘space’ in the middle underneath the boss’s offices – the rot at the heart of the company.

Projection is a hugely important part of the design, and images and video will be shown in inventive ways throughout the space. These will depict metaphors, or offer a different sense of space lending to what is conveyed in the script. The screens of the trading floor are key to the story, and are used for projection, and these feature repeatedly, with the same rectangular shape found throughout.

A WORLD OF SUITS AND TIES

I also applied the metaphors and stereotypes to the costume designs. In the male dominant world of Enron, it was a known fact that skirted ex-models were employed to wander through the office space – sexism was rife, and testosterone fuelled the trading floor. It was a world of suits and ties and skirts and makeup. Other characters depicting metaphors offered the chance to be very playful with the design.

Overall a fun, challenging and unique piece to design for, and a pleasure working alongside a really talented team of people.

See some of Sarah’s designs for the show in the gallery at the top of the page, on the left.

Nottingham Playhouse Youth Theatre presents Enron, 8-10 August. For more information click here.

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