Opening to rave reviews at The National Theatre in 2018, The Lehman Trilogy is back, now at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in Covent Garden. It brilliantly tells the story of the rise and mighty fall of the investment bank that once was Lehman Brothers. Three actors grace the stage, brilliantly playing the three Lehman brothers who started up the business, as well as other characters instrumental in the history story of Lehman the company, including the sins and grandsons. Nigel Lindsay is absolutely brilliant as Henry Lehman, who left his home country of Bavaria to start a new life in America, winding up in the Deep South on 1851 in Montgomery, Alabama and opening up a general store. Emanuel arrives next into America, (played by a very good Hadley Fraser). The third brother, Mayer, arrives next (Michael Balogun).
Henry and his brothers start buying and reselling raw cotton, but the unforeseen death of Henry and the start of the U.S. civil war don’t stop the remaining brothers to open up an office in downtown NYC. A decade later the company becomes a bank, and diving into other industries as well, eventually morphing into an investment bank. With the determination, drive, and confidence, and name, the sons and grandsons morph the company into one of the most valued and respected companies in the U.S. But what goes up must come down, and Lehman Bros. was heavily entangled in subprime mortgages that caused its demise in September 2008.
The Lehman Trilogy, at three hours and twenty minutes (with two intervals), never once flags, thanks in part to the the sharp script (by Stefano Massini, and adapted by Ben Power) and smooth direction (the great Sam Mendes). An excellent set (as described above) is mesmerising, and the backdrop changes with the mood of the show, buts it’s success is ultimately down to the actors who command the stage – it’s quite an achievement to memorise all that dialogue. It’s a story that could be deemed an American Tragedy, and it’s more than likely to happen again in our lifetime.