Review: ★★★★ The Lehman Trilogy, Gillian Lynne Theatre

A good revival, disrupted by two technical problems.

Sam Mendes’ epic The Lehman Trilogy returns to London since it’s sell out run at the National Theatre in 2018. From there it enjoyed successful spells in the West End, on Broadway and now its back in London for those wishing to see it again, and for those witnessing it for the first time.

The play, directed by Mendes, was adapted by Ben Power from the original Italian text by Stefano Massini. The set was designed by Es Devlin and the music accompanying the play was played on a live piano by Yshani Perinpanayagam.

The Lehman Trilogy is an epic played out across three acts telling the story of how Henry Lehman (Nigel Lindsay) arrived in America in 1844 on a cold September morning from Rimpar, Bavaria dreaming of a new life in the new world. He is subsequently joined by his two brothers Emanuel (Michael Balogun) and Mayer (Hadley Fraser), and the 163-year journey begins. From selling cotton to conquering the American railway systems, before the company dissolved in 2008 triggering the biggest financial crisis since the Wall Street crash of 1929. The production takes place on a giant revolving set that shows both the passing of time and how the Lehman family built its enormous empire.

All three actors play multiple parts across the 163-year history from tough businessmen in New York to 18-year-old girls in Alabama. It’s a huge task for the actors and I applaud Hadley, Michael and Nigel on a great evening’s work. They had big shoes to fill from the 2018 cast of Simon Russell-Beale, Adam Godley, and Ben Miles who were exceptional in the original production. In my opinion, the actors who originated the roles were the better trio. Whilst I take nothing away from Michael, Nigel and Hadley, the previous three actors were more commanding of the stage and displayed a deeper understanding and portrayal of their characters.

The Lehman Trilogy as a play is a masterpiece. It has a brilliant ability to condense over a hundred years into three and half hours, with two intervals. It is a commentary of the “American Dream” how someone from any background has the right to achieve success through hard work and dedication. The Lehman brothers did exactly that. The story is told clearly, fluidly and it guides you through the history with ease. I admire how the text and the actors can explain how the Lehman’s grew their business in a clear and engaging way.

Sadly, there were a series of events that overshadowed the evening. The performance had to be stopped twice because the revolving stage malfunctioned. At first, the calm and composed stage manager Graham Michael ran on and consoled the audience that the problems were fixable. Unfortunately, it happened again, and the actors were taken off stage for a considerable period. Upon hearing that the show could be finished actor Nigel Lindsay came on and thanked the audience for their patience and that they would get to the end of the show. Which they did.

Despite this, it’s an experience in the theatre that I would recommend greatly.

The Lehman Trilogy runs at the Gillian Lynne Theatre until 20th May. 

Oliver Gower

Oliver Gower
Oliver Gower

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