Late to the party I am afraid, but the Lehman Trilogy has resurfaced for a second West End run so here goes. The play started at the National Theatre in the autumn of 2018, moved to the West End and then went to Broadway where it earned a shoal of Tony Awards – it had not strangely featured in the Olivier Awards here. Now recast after being performed in Los Angeles this story of the rise and fall of the banking family directed by Sam Mendes is back. It makes for a long and for the most part engrossing evening with the cast of three performing all the parts and displaying considerable and impressive versatility in the doing although the female parts are all sent up, possibly for good reason as these are three bearded men doing them and it also places them where historically women may well have been as pawns in a male dominated world but it still rings slightly hard to take today. Why it was a bigger hit in New York in terms of awards than here is obvious – the Lehmans ended up as New Yorkers, rich and influential, patrons of the arts. Their story takes nearly three hours in the telling plus two intervals and at times it is a bit like listening to someone reading a book except that designer Es Devlin has provided a feast for the eyes with an amazing set. It basically consists of a glass walled box which contains some two or three rooms and a terrace set against a cyclorama on which are projected scenes from Montgomery, of the city to which they moved, storm clouds and images of menace as things go disastrously wrong with the world of high finance where people manipulate money that doesn’t exist relating to things they do not make designed by Luke Halls. It is astonishing visually. The story is also offset by a pianist at the edge of the stage playing music to highlight a scene, an almost protagonist in the goings on above her.
The performance by Michael Balogun, Hadley Fraser and Nigel Lindsay as the brothers are amazing to watch – and almost certainly exhausting to deliver – as they move from Montgomery, Alabama where they dealt in cotton goods and then expanded into other commodities, move to New York and into banking and then in 2008 when the bank collapsed Lehman’s led to the world financial crisis. It has stopped dealing in reality and the whole structure came tumbling down. Maybe one loses interest a little because by then the Lehman’s have lost control of their bank and what holds the attention is how these German Jewish immigrants fulfilled the American dream. Recast or not – and the original version was praised to the rooftops – this is a terrific evening in its own right, not just a revival with a lesser cast – this trio are as good as it gets.
Michael Balogun: Emanuel Lehman.
Hadley Fraser: Mayer Lehman.
Nigel Lindsay: Henry Lehman.
Yshanmi Perinpanayagam: Pianist.
Director: Sam Mendes.
Set Designer: Es Devlin.
Costume Designer: Katrina Lindsay.
Video Designer: Luke Halls.
Lighting Designer: Jon Clark.
Composer and Sound Designer: Nick Powell,
Music Director: Candid Caldicot.
Movement: Polly Bennett.
West End Director: Zoe Ford Burnett.
Company Voice Work: Charmian Hoare.
Production Photographs: Mark Douet.