Top 10 reasons to see 'The Lehman Trilogy' in the West End
Celebrated on both sides of the pond, the hit National Theatre and Neal Street Productions show The Lehman Trilogy returns to the West End after a multiple-Tony Award-winning run on Broadway. The show won five awards, including Best Play, capping an extraordinary journey that began in 2018.
Adapted from Italian writer Stefano Massini’s version by Ben Power, The Lehman Trilogy tells the story of three brothers who emigrated to America from Bavaria in the mid 19th century. Together they founded the company that grew into the all-powerful, “too big to fail” investment firm – whose bankruptcy in 2008 helped trigger a global financial crisis.
Told by a talented cast of just three, playing multiple characters between them, in an eye-popping production directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy is set to play at a new West End venue, the Gillian Lynne Theatre, in 2023. It’s the must-see production of the new theatre calendar: a feat of stagecraft, and the foundational story of our times.
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The Lehman Trilogy has a stacked creative team
This is theatre at its most thrilling: a tiny cast conjuring up worlds between them. Of course, the amazing Lehman trio also get a vital assist from their creative team. It’s led by Sam Mendes, founder of the Donmar Warehouse, director of West End hit The Ferryman and James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre, and Oscar winner for American Beauty.
Adaptor Ben Power has also written movie Munich: The Edge of War and several The Hollow Crown scripts; set designer Es Devlin has worked on everything from the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Hamlet to Adele shows and her own art exhibitions; Katrina Lindsay won an Olivier and a Tony for her Harry Potter and the Cursed Child costumes; lighting designer Jon Clark won an Olivier for The Inheritance; and movement director Polly Bennett coached Oscar-winner Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody and helped Austin Butler become Elvis.
The Lehman Trilogy play has won numerous awards
With such incredible creative calibre, it’s not surprising that The Lehman Trilogy has become a major awards magnet. The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards in 2022 and won five of them: Best Play, Best Director for Sam Mendes, Best Scenic Design of a Play for Es Devlin, Best Lighting Design of a Play for Jon Clark, and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for Simon Russell Beale.
The original London production was nominated for five Olivier Awards, and its New York transfer also saw it win Outstanding New Broadway Play (plus awards for Director, Outstanding Actor, Lighting, Sound and Video) at the 2022 Outer Critic Circle Awards, and Outstanding Production of a Play at the 2022 Drama League Awards.
The Lehman Trilogy is a story about family
At its heart, this epic tale boils down to one family – making it relatable for everyone. You might not have founded a financial empire with your siblings, or inherited one from your grandparents, but you can relate to how those roles from childhood often become inescapable, as we see in that first generation: commanding oldest brother Henry, fiery middle brother Emanuel, and peace-making youngest brother Mayer.
It’s also fascinating to see how subsequent generations view their forefathers: whether they revere their traditions or seek to move away from them, reshaping both the business and the family unit. The closeness of that original trio is never quite replicated, perhaps because they have a particular bond as immigrants. But that rich portrait of a family growing and changing over time gives this often cerebral play real heart, and makes it appealing to any audience.
See an acting masterclass
It takes incredible skill to portray one character, or two, or three. Well, how about 53? That’s roughly how many people are brought to life by just three actors in The Lehman Trilogy. Three is a magic number here: three actors, three brothers, and three parts to this phenomenal piece of theatre, all told in just one awe-inspiring evening.
As well as the founding brothers, the cast plays their descendants – like Emanuel’s son Philip and grandson Bobbie — as well as girlfriends, wives, children, business partners and rivals. It’s a true tour de force, as we’ve already seen with original cast Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley, plus Adrian Lester succeeding Miles for the Broadway run. The West End run will star Michael Balogun will play Emanuel Lehman, Hadley Fraser will play Mayer Lehman, and Nigel Lindsay will play Henry Lehman. Find out more about The Lehman Trilogy London cast.
The Lehman Trilogy is based on real events
The play gives a pretty faithful account of how the brothers came to America from Bavaria – essentially pursuing the American Dream. It gives a window onto recent history, via their experiences: from selling goods and cotton in the mid 19th century through to the foundation of the New York Stock Exchange in 1887, the stock market crash and Great Depression, the firm’s transformation into an investment bank, and finally the financial crisis of 2008.
It tells us so much about how our way of doing business changed, from the small-scale exchange of tangible goods through to a globally connected system of, essentially, confidence and faith in imaginary numbers. That, in turn, helps us understand how our current capitalist system works – and where it’s vulnerable. The play’s brilliant analogies, like comparing the stock exchange to a man walking across a tightrope, put all of this into entertaining and illuminating layman’s terms.
The Lehman Trilogy is a visual wonder
Es Devlin’s set design has to be seen to be believed. It takes its cue from that sleek but abandoned Lehman Brothers office in 2008: the glass walls of a recognisable Wall Street skyscraper, with packing boxes strewn around. The stunning main part of the design is a rotating glass cube (the “magical music box called America”), constantly changing our perspective. The actors use those boxes to set up different locations and scrawl on the walls to explain theories to us, or to represent shop-front signs.
There’s also the key addition of Jon Clark’s cinematic lighting and Luke Halls’s video projections, which give it the monochromatic feel of a graphic novel and the mesmerising style of a Hollywood film. It brings us that sense of America through the ages, covering more than 150 years – and yet keeping us within the intimate sphere of just one family, too.
The Lehman Trilogy is on a world journey
The Lehman brothers travelled from Bavaria to the United States, and now The Lehman Trilogy continues the Lehman's globetrotting. After The Lehman Trilogy premiered at the National Theatre in 2018, the show then played at the Piccadilly Theatre, transferred to Broadway, and ran in Los Angeles. There's something for everybody in The Lehman Trilogy Previous runs in both the UK and the States have completely sold out, so we recommend booking early!
The play has a beautiful live piano score
Another key member of the Lehman creative team is its music director and pianist Candida Caldicott. The talented and experienced Caldicott, who has also recently performed in the West End and Broadway play To Kill A Mockingbird, plays the extraordinarily evocative compositions of Nick Powell in The Lehman Trilogy.
The music here isn’t just background noise — it’s a thrilling part of the action itself, shifting us between places, time periods and different moods, underscoring the various characters, and adding heft to the play’s most dramatic moments.
It’s a particular treat to have Caldicott (who was in rehearsals throughout) playing the piano score live: she really interacts with the cast, in an almost vaudevillian way, and creates a palpable atmosphere. The score also cleverly keeps us in touch with the roots of the story via its European folk song leitmotif.
The Lehman Trilogy is reborn in a new venue
The play began its life in 2018 at the National’s mid-size Lyttelton Theatre. It then transferred to New York’s Park Avenue Armory in 2019, and returned to the UK for a West End run at the Piccadilly Theatre later that year. Then it was another transatlantic trip over to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre in 2020, and it most recently played at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
Now the show comes to the Gillian Lynne Theatre, which recently premiered Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical Cinderella, and is currently home to the lavish stage adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. With a capacity of more than 1,100, and a famously spectacular stage (this is also the theatre that housed the original run of Cats), it will provide new opportunities for The Lehman Trilogy to dazzle on an epic scale.
It’s a must-see unique piece of theatre
There is simply nothing else like this – in the West End or anywhere else. Spanning 163 years, over 50 characters, the American Dream, the birth (and downfall) of modern capitalism, faith, family and finance, all told by just three actors and a pianist, it’s theatre at its most expansive and most intimate.
The Lehman Trilogy is a history play that tells us everything about who we are today, and an American tale told by a crack British team that has universal resonance. Make sure you don’t miss out on this boundless, audacious, funny and tragic play: the story of how three brothers changed the world.
Book The Lehman Trilogy tickets on London Theatre.
Photo credit: The Lehman Trilogy, Sam Mendes and The Lehman Trilogy creatives at the Tony Awards, and Sam Mendes in rehearsal (Photos courtesy of production, Getty for Tony Awards Productions, and by Mark Douet respectively)
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