The Lehman Trilogy Reviews – Gillian Lynne Theatre ★★★★

Reviews are coming in for The Lehman Trilogy at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London.

Winner of five Tony awards on Broadway, The Lehman Trilogy is written by Stefano Massini, adapted by Ben Power, and directed by multi-Oscar, Tony and Golden Globe Award winner Sam Mendes.

The Lehman Trilogy stars Michael Balogun (Death of England: Delroy, Top Boy) as Emanuel Lehman, Hadley Fraser (Coriolanus, City of Angels) as Mayer Lehman and Nigel Lindsay (Woman In Mind, The Capture) as Henry Lehman.

This tale of three generations of American bankers and capitalists the Lehman brothers spans over a century and a half. A three-part theatrical masterpiece, that unfolds in a single evening, the play takes you on a journey from the Lehman brothers’ arrival in America and the founding of their investment firm in 1850, to the downfall of the company in 2008.

The Lehman Trilogy is directed by Sam Mendes with set design by Es Devlin, costume design by Katrina Lindsay, video design by Luke Halls, lighting design by Jon Clark, and music and sound design by Nick Powell. The music director is Candida Caldicot, with movement by Polly Bennett.

The Lehman Brothers is running at the Gillian Lynne Theatre until 21 May 2023.

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Average Critics Rating

The Lehman Trilogy reviews

The Times

"A mesmerising epic, perfectly played"

"This mesmerising chronicle of an American dynasty sweeps past like one of those gigantic freight trains that roll across the Midwestern landscape. It’s long, very long, with incident piled upon incident over the course of more than three hours, and when the last scene fades, you are left slightly dazed."

"it’s the intricate alchemy of the three actors that makes Sam Mendes’s production — first seen at the National in 2018 — so intense. The latest trio to take up the challenge, Michael Balogun, Hadley Fraser and Nigel Lindsay, conjure up multitudes, from hardbitten traders to coquettish maidens... The performances are note-perfect."

"When I first saw the play, I wondered if it couldn’t have been trimmed by 20 minutes or so. It still could. Even so, the narrative seldom flags. Scenes hurtle past as Balogun, Fraser and Lindsay, still wearing their sombre frock coats, mimic the quirks and tics of one generation after another."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Evening Standard

"The new cast shines in this tour de force production"

"This story charting 160 years of US captialism still feels horribly relevant"

"In this chewy theatrical epic, three versatile character actors unpack 160 years of American capitalism through the story of a family firm founded by Jewish immigrants."

"Director Sam Mendes’s enthralling production blends domestic and world events, a ritualistic family saga, and homages to American culture. There’s a curved Cinerama-style screen at the back of the stage showing the Atlantic, empty Alabama vistas and the changing New York skyline, plus a live, silent-movie style piano accompaniment throughout. The witty performances have more than a touch of vaudeville: I was occasionally reminded of the Marx Brothers."

"The show isn’t faultless. The female characters are simpering caricatures. The third act rushes us from 1929 to 2008, although it does offer us the spectacle of Fraser dancing himself manically into the grave as Bobbie, a wafty Howard Hughes character and the last Lehman to control the company.The production remains a tour de force, though. The new actors shine. And the sense of characters ridden by events and financial systems that they think they are riding still feels horribly relevant."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Stage

"Production of colossal elegance"

"Sam Mendes’ stunning epic returns to the West End"

"Lindsay approaches Henry very differently from the mighty Simon Russell Beale who originated the role, and he pulls it off magnificently. He stands relaxed, expansive, rocking back on his heels, inviting us into the story. He shares his enthusiasm for his new life."

"Balogun gives Emanuel a kind of iron armour, making him fierce and impenetrable, but as the show goes on it’s Fraser who gets to really shine, a comic chameleon who plays a parade of courting women one minute and a classroom full of children the next. It’s really extraordinary stuff, and in parts better than its previous incarnations."

"Capping it all is the ability of the actors to bring out the intricate, repetitive rhythms of Power’s script and to rise to every one of Mendes’ challenges. They’re just messing around with a few stacking boxes, a few pairs of glasses, a few silly voices, and somehow it turns into a production of colossal elegance."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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i News

"Pure theatre magic"

"Starring Hadley Fraser, Michael Balogun and Nigel Lindsay, Ben Power’s play is nothing less than an astonishing achievement in performance"

"This new West End iteration reminds London audiences what a dazzling undertaking it is; whoever holds the quick-change post of Culture Secretary this week should hasten to the Gillian Lynne to remind themselves of the unrivalled glories subsidised theatre can produce, as well as the rich returns on initial government funding. Even the greediest banker would find it hard to fault the balance-sheet economics here."

"The three actors play every role, big and small, down the decades and the centuries; this is nothing less than an astonishing achievement in performance. The weighty is cleverly sprinkled with the playful; Fraser, who is a particular delight, has great fun portraying a range of potential suitors for an especially demanding Lehman scion. If Balogan’s work cannot quite match the all-out versatility of the other two, it is no matter, as the trio anchors us with surety in the intimate heart of an ever-expanding family business."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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"Sam Mendes directs the return of this dazzling piece of storytelling about a family business that would define America"

"‘The Lehman Trilogy’ isn’t about banking or the credit crunch. It’s about a family, and about the dizzying lifecycle of that family’s business during America’s chaotic years of ascent."

"Nigel Lindsay, Michael Balogun and Hadley Fraser are the second UK cast, and they’re excellent at riding the lightning of Massini/Power’s breakneck prose."

"... having women as essentially minor joke characters – even if the joke is generally on the actor playing her – does underscore what a sausage fest this is, and I can’t help but feel there’s a dimension missing in making this three-and-half-hour epic essentially entirely about men. But what a three-and-a-half-hour epic about men it is! Mendes’s production is never less than riveting, and Massini’s play – and Ben Power’s adaption – often ferociously smart."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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The Guardian

"Sam Mendes’ banking saga returns with dividends"

"Hadley Fraser, Nigel Lindsay and Michael Balogun are astonishing as the 18th-century bankers who helped to define the American dream"

"Directed by Sam Mendes, this is a handsome, playful and sometimes sublime production in which dynastic history collides with world events to show the end point of America’s rugged individualism."

"Its theatricality is utterly astonishing. Michael Balogun, Hadley Fraser and Nigel Lindsay not only perform as each brother but also as sons, wives and grandchildren, each actor excellent in their parts. Es Devlin’s gorgeous glass and chrome boardroom set design rotates in front of a cinematic screen..."

"But it can feel indulgent in its emphatic repetitions, set against Yshani Perinpanayagam’s piano music and Philip Glass-like sounds. The humour, sharp and delightful for the main, becomes a little too cutesy in some picaresque scenes and the brothers as a whole seem drawn with a kind of cuddly admiration that somewhat lets them off the hook."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Telegraph

"A gripping tale of rags to riches to ruin"

"Brilliantly directed by Sam Mendes, Stefano Massini's chronicle of the banking dynasty is riveting, and superbly acted – but also incomplete"

"Ben Power’s canny National theatre adaptation of Massini’s work, with sublime direction by Sam Mendes, now returns to London for its third presentation after garnering five Tony awards amid a delayed, rather pandemic-hobbled Broadway stint."

"... as in previous incarnations, the leads here – Nigel Lindsay, Hadley Fraser and Michael Balogun – don’t put a foot wrong as they materialise from behind piles of boxes, tilt between gaiety and wistfulness, and sternly prowl about."

"Plaudits aside, I long to see a blow-by-blow account of those final years, especially post 9/11, when Lehman inc got carried away with the sub-prime bonanza; the post-Sixties phase, which saw control passing into new hands, has a bullet-point succinctness that edges into Wikipedia-ish superficiality. Massini’s must-see masterwork joins a corpus of invaluable, financially fixated drama, from David Hare’s The Power of Yes to Lucy Prebble’s Enron. It does sterling work of its own – but there’s more still to do."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Observer

"Illusion captivates in a revival of Sam Mendes’s banking saga"

"If anything, The Lehman Trilogy has become weightier, more threatening since it was first staged in 2018. The original wonder of Sam Mendes’s production of Stefano Massini’s play, adapted by Ben Power, was the incisive economy with which the history of American capitalism was charted through the fortunes of one Jewish family. That holds true in this revival."

"I still wish the play delivered a clear explanation of Lehmans’ final implosion. What is powerfully suggested is a gradual hollowing out of values as the business changes from dealing in goods to dealing in money: from stuff to symbol. Where better than a theatre to show how an illusion can captivate, and faith be instilled by confident presentation: “Trust me, I’m an actor.”"

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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The Sunday Times

"The Lehman Trilogy is back — but is it better?"

"Five years after it first astonished audiences, the tale of a family firm’s rise and crash remains ingenious"

"This ingenious telling of a family firm’s rise and crash remains theatrically immense."

"Nigel Lindsay, Michael Balogun and Hadley Fraser inherit roles created by Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley. Balogun needs to sharpen his diction but the new trio does fine."

"Our world is now threatened by neo-puritanism, bureaucratic authoritarianism and eastern militarism. After lockdown, capitalist excess has an almost giddying attraction. The Lehman Trilogy nonetheless remains majestically watchable. It is not, though, a short evening. The moment it ended, theatregoers scurried for the exits, so anxious to catch trains home that they didn’t wait for the curtain call."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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Daily Mail

"A bunch of bankers you might like to meet"

"First time around, it's easy to be blown away by the glitzy bravura of Sir Sam Mendes's hymn to American banking... And yet on second viewing, the originally nine-hour script by Stefano Massini, filleted by Ben Power, is an oddly weightless experience. It is blithely oblivious to moral and cultural issues that have made a ferocious return to the political landscape since the show premiered in 2018."

"Nigel Lindsay, Michael Balogun and Hadley Fraser, the stars of the show, are more like guilt-free cogs on a production line than morally accountable human beings. But along with a steady flow of piano music, their three-way bickering and brokering lends continuity to a story that runs as swiftly as a hedge fund manager to an off-shore tax haven."

"Tug the thread of the story's sub-prime moral obfuscations and the whole blanket might unravel. But as pure, dizzying, audio-visual spectacle this is unrivalled — and still very much a show worth being able to say you've seen."

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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The Financial Times

"Sam Mendes’s magnificent 2018 staging of The Lehman Trilogy returns to London’s West End with a terrific new cast as the three Jewish brothers from Bavaria"

"Nigel Lindsay (Henry), Michael Balogun (Emanuel) and Hadley Fraser (Mayer) make the roles their own and build a lovely, mischievous relationship with the audience. Nick Powell’s spare, evocative piano score, played by Yshani Perinpanayagam, is a constant companion."

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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📷 Main photo: The Lehman Trilogy at the Gillian Lynne Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet

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