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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Lehman Trilogy (National Theatre), at Theatre Royal Sydney - 3 hours 20 minutes, including two 15 minute intervals

Updated: Mar 24

An immigrant family business that grew and grew to become the fourth largest investment bank in the United States before it disintegrated.

 

That is the story of the Lehman Brothers, as told with remarkable insight and stagecraft in The Lehman Trilogy.

 

Born on September 29th, 1822, Hayum Lehmann, the son of a cattle merchant, emigrated from Bavaria to America on September 11th, 1844.

Photos by Daniel Boud


Taking the name Henry Lehman, he worked hard to establish a small business, selling fabrics and suits in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Three years later he was joined by his younger brother Emanuel and a further three years on by the youngest of the clan, Mayer – not yet 20 – known as Spud.

 

Henry, as the eldest, liked to say he was always right and frequently locked horns with Emanuel, with Mayer serving as the peacemaker.

Cotton became their meal ticket to fortune before opportunities arose in coffee and much more, the business making its presence felt in New York City.

 

Their entrepreneurial spirit saw them continue to expand and prosper through successive generations, but not without several close calls.

 

Finally, after 163 years, the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the largest financial crisis in history.

Told in three acts over 3 hours 20 minutes, including two 15-minute intervals, The Lehman Trilogy is the work of Stefano Massini and has been adapted by Ben Power.

 

It is an epic production, with spectacular performances, visualisation and direction from Sam Mendes.

 

The actors that start playing the three brothers seamlessly morph into other characters.

 

That includes young children and women, adopting different accents and gaits. It is truly wonderful to behold and, at times, hilarious.

I speak of Adrian Schiller as Henry, Howard W. Overshown as Emanuel and Aaron Krohn as Mayer – brilliant realisations all.

 

Es Devlin has created an evocative, rotating, large, three-room (board room, shop and managerial office), modern set with glass walls.

 

Luke Halls’ video design – much of it in black and white, interspersed with striking pops of colour – adds weight to the timeframe and events that take place.

Katrina Lindsay’s elegant, black, long coat, three-piece suit costuming with white shirts maintains the monochrome palette.

 

With sound design by Nick Powell and lighting by Jon Clark, the play is enhanced by piano accompaniment from Cat Beveridge.

 

Awarded five Tony Awards, including Best Play and Best Direction in 2022, The Lehman Trilogy is a masterful work, which leaves a lasting impression.

It is playing at Theatre Royal Sydney until 24th March, 2024.

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