Photo: Mark Douet

On paper, The Lehman Trilogy seems as though it’s going to be something rather special. Directed by Sam Mendes, this production transferred to Broadway after its initial run at the National Theatre in 2018; that production picked up five Tony Awards, including Best Play. It’s now open on the West End at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, starring Michael Balogan, Hadley Fraser and Nigel Lindsay as the three Lehman brothers. This show clocks in at nearly three and a half hours (thankfully with two intervals) – before committing to something so substantial, you’ll rightly be wondering whether it’s worth such an investment.

Thankfully it is – The Lehman Trilogy is theatrical storytelling on an absolutely epic scale. Charting the ascent and subsequent spectacular collapse of the family business over a period spanning some 160 years, we are first introduced to the Lehman brothers as they arrive in New York from Bavaria in the 1840s and set about creating a new life for themselves in the US. Over the three acts we see our trio of actors masterfully command multiple roles – initially as the three Lehman brothers, then as their sons and grandsons, and also girlfriends, wives, business associates and so on; it’s quite a sight to behold.

It really tells a fascinating tale: starting from the founding of their clothing store, which saw them go on to work with local farmers to invest and trade in cotton (not just for their own clothes to sell, but also to sell on to other manufacturers); then moving on to further investments including tobacco and munitions during the US civil war; subsequently moving away from selling clothes entirely and focusing on investments, creating what would become one of the world’s largest investment banks in the process.

It’s not a stretch to say this company shaped much of the modern world as we know it – proceedings are punctuated with moments where we learn about an investment from the Lehman Bank which funded major infrastructure projects, or modern entertainment products, or classic Hollywood films. In fact, something we particularly enjoyed about the show is that there’s no sanctimonious, hectoring moment about greed – there is no “money is evil, capitalism is bad” messaging here. The Lehman Trilogy plays out as a straightforward theatrical tragedy – a pretty conventional rags to riches to ruins tale.

This show is theatre at its very best – it tells a monumental tale, the acting is superb, the set is visually arresting, the music and sound design add the perfect level of dramatic tension. The Lehman Trilogy is one of those rare occurrences where all the parts fit together perfectly. Three and a half hours is longer than we’d normally like to spend at the theatre, but this investment is worth every minute – absolutely superb.

GAY TIMES gives The Lehman Trilogy – 5/5

More information can be found here.