The Lehman Trilogy originally began its life in France, the show then went on to be staged across Europe, before being adapted by Ben Power, and premiering at the National Theatre in 2018. It’s since had runs in the West End and on Broadway, the show is now back in London, after winning multiple Tony Awards® and garnering critical acclaim.

Credit: Mark Douet

The play follows the Lehman Brothers; Henry, Mayer and Emanuel, from their immigration to America, and their journey from shopkeepers to investment bankers. Beginning in the mid-19th century and ending with the bank’s financial collapse in 2008, the show follows the further generations of the Lehman family.

Stefano Massini’s script, adapted by Power, means the actors onstage perform in the third person, narrating their lines and subsequently reacting to them. These lines are also delivered directly to the audience, it feels throughout as if we are in conversation with the actors. The script is incredibly dialogue-heavy, and props to the performers who delivered this expertly. The staging rotated but did not change, and the same three performers are on stage throughout the almost 3-and-a-half-hour run time, it must be incredibly challenging to not only retain all the dialogue but also to remember where you are within it. All three of them deliver faultless performances. 

Set designer of the moment, Es Devlin has designed a breathtaking set, which is fully deserving of the Tony® she won for it. An office and boardroom are placed inside a large glass box onstage which revolves during scene changes. There’s a large curved screen behind this, which displays Luke Hall’s projections. At times these display the NYC skyline, and during tense moments the sky or sea is displayed, a metaphor for stormier times. 

The three actors are all exceptional throughout, taking on the roles of multiple people. But this is Hadley Fraser’s (Mayer Lehman) show, it was a delight to watch him morph into multiple characters, each of which he fully embodies. Using different voices, accents, and mannerisms. Fraser oozes charisma, and creates some highly comical moments during the show, providing a physicality to his performance, remaining animated throughout. 

Credit: Mark Douet

Nigel Lindsey (Henry Lehman) is energetic and works wonderfully with Fraser to create some funny scenes together, with excellent comedic timing. Michael Balogun (Emanuel Lehman) is not given as much of a chance to flex his funny bone, but gave an intensely dramatic, and compelling performance. 

Yshani Perinpanayagam plays the piano during the show, adding intensity at moments, and keeping the pace light at others. She plays at the audience’s level, and it’s wonderful to see her display her talents.

Sam Mendes’ direction is the true star here, the pacing is completely perfect. Three and a half hours fly by, I’ve seen shows with half the run time that feel much longer. The storyline continues to move throughout, and the movement of the actors around the set during scene changes helps to keep the momentum going. 

Not only is The Lehman Trilogy one of the best plays I’ve seen, but Fraser also provides one of the best performances I’ve seen. The show is simple in performance design, yet works so well – creating pure theatrical magic. It’s utterly compelling, holding my attention throughout the entire run time, I’d watch it again tomorrow, truly sensational theatre.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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