On September 15, 2008, the Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy – the devastating end to a story 158 years in the making.
If there is one show to get excited about, to queue up for tickets to see, to pay a whole weeks’ worth of earnings on a back row seat, it is this one.
Tickets for Stefano Massini’s hit play The Lehman Trilogy completely sold out when the new English version premiered at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre in July 2018. Starring Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles, the play tracks three generations of the family behind one of the world’s biggest financial corporations. Luckily, my friend and I scored tickets for their final show. I have to talk about this piece because it was an outstanding piece of theatre. Excellent writing, staging, acting, lighting, everything fit like the perfect glove, the glass slipper of theatre and ended with a roaring standing ovation. This piece is a classic example of being told a story.
Beginning in 1844, The Lehman Trilogy charts the formation of the Lehman Brothers bank, when a young man from Bavaria, with a big dream, moves to the US to start a new life. Followed and accompanied by his brothers, they build an empire! The play follows 163 years of banking history, and tells of the establishment of the bank, and its doomed fate which led to the biggest global financial collapse in history, affecting each and every one of us. Ann Treneman described the play as “grown-up theatre at its best” (Times, ★★★★★), which I completely agree with. The story isn’t hard to follow or understand because it is told so poetically and the actors voices and bodies flow with the moving stage, that you are taken on a journey with them. You do not feel as if you are being given a lecture even though you are constantly learning about business and family affairs. it is hard not to see the play as an account of the shifting definition of the American dream.
Directed by Sam Mendes, who directed West End smash-hit The Ferryman, as well as the latest James Bond film Spectre, this play is shows his genius mind. The staging is bold, bright, well used with a revolve and giant projection screens at the back. However, the true genius comes with the positioning. The way in which the actors and placed amongst the stage creates different levels, dimensions and triangles. Leaving no space empty. Causing the audience to explore every angle of the stage. It is magical how at one moment the stage can appear massively wide for scenes set as oceans and wild field fires, then as small and tight as homely living rooms and cramped offices. True theatre architecture at its finest.
The three multi-rolling actors has the audiences captivated, entertained and giving a loud, standing ovation at the end. Their movements and use of language was so elegant, it were like watching a dance. Their acting was natural, it were as if they had lived through this. Acting at its best.
I do not have one criticism for this piece, for a three-hour production I was completely taken back by how a production can tick all the boxes I’ve studied all my life.
Massive congratulations. I hope to see it on stage again soon and I hope many more can see it.