Enron closes: Vive la difference?
Enron is closing on Broadway less than two weeks after its official opening. That's bad for the producers, for the cast and for any American theatre-goers who will now have to travel to London's West End, where the show is still playing.
There will be lots of conjecture as to why a show that was a hit with London audiences failed to do impress New Yorkers. Already this morning there is a three-page post-mortem examination in the Guardian.
The truth is that nobody knows why Enron didn't cut it on Broadway. Maybe a play written and produced by Brits criticising the mismanagement that led to the collapse of an American energy company was too hard to swallow as BP tries to clean up the oil off the coast of Louisiana.
Or it could have been the New York Times wot dun it. Its theatre critic Ben Brantley gave the show a damning write-up, calling it "a flashy but labored economics lesson". The paper's opinion certainly carries a lot of weight. Perhaps the final straw was the play's failure to receive the nod for the Best Play short-list in the recently announced Tony Award nominations, which was seen by many as a vote of no confidence.
Much more fun, of course, is to go down the parochial route. "Oh, those Americans are so vulgar, they simply don't understand the nuances of a great work" and so on. Such protestations have embarrassment and humiliation at their heart, our taste being called into question by someone we desperately want to impress.
But for all the hand-wringing, head-scratching, OMG-how-could-they reaction, there is a silver lining to this dark theatrical cloud. At least the Western world's great streets of theatre - Broadway and Shaftesbury Avenue - might be saved from the homogenisation that has made High Streets from Birmingham to Beijing look the same.
When I went to Beijing a couple of years ago, I was expecting nobody to speak English, food that contained things that would make a health and safety officer very angry and shops that emerged from houses as garages do in the wealthy West. The reality was that the Hutong have all but disappeared, replaced by characterless high-rises. And everybody seemed to speak English - to you, all the time, because they were all learning the language at once - and the High Street contained the same shops as you would find in London, New York and even Maidstone. The only difference was that their tourist shops sell over-priced flavoured teas and ours sell over-priced, over-sized postcards of faux punks with their breasts hanging out.
The great excitement of travel is to explore, appreciate and experience different cultures. One way to do this is through a country's arts: the festivals, literature, theatre and telly. Few things will give you a more undiluted, direct sense of the past, present and attitude to the future of the place you are visiting.
There has always been trading between London and New York when it comes to theatre: several American shows are running in London theatres at the moment and vice versa. But these have tended to be musicals or very showbizzy productions, less straight drama. That has started to change with producers now making announcements that commit a production to both London and New York before the show has opened anywhere. But something important would be lost if, in a few years' time, this trend grew to such an extent that the posters on theatre billboards on Broadway and Shaftesbury Avenue were indistinguishable.
Anyway, what do the Americans know? They can't even spell "theatre".