THE LEHMAN TRILOGY (play)
Ends 31st August 2019.
CONTAINS FLASHING IMAGES IN ACT 3 THAT MAY CAUSE DIZZINESS. ALSO
CONTAINS A 15 SECOND "TOTAL DARKNESS" SEQUENCE AND GUNSHOT SOUNDS.
New York, 1844. A Bavarian and his brothers arrive. 163 years later, the
bank they founded collapses in spectacular fashion. Over three parts in
a single evening, Ben Power's translation of Stefano Massini's play is
directed by Sam Mendes. This production transfers following the sell out
run at the National Theatre in summer 2018.
(from the original National Theatre production: seen at the afternoon
performance on 17th July 2018). Some actors have now left the production.
This really is rather like the bank itself. Doughty and reliable until the
closing minutes, when it really does all fall to pieces. Es Devlin's remarkable
cuboid set (with Luke Halls rather distracting video projections) and Sam Mendes
inventive yet unobtrusive direction place Simon Russell Beale (Henry Lehman),
Ben Miles (Emanuel Lehman) and Adam Godley (Mayer Lehrman) in prime position to
tell a tale spanning over a century.
Act 1 sees three brothers coming to America and turning a wool and clothing
store into a bank. Act 2 is the establishment and growth in New York. Act 3 the
demise. The first act is deeply moving. A nod to Rabbi Epstein for the
perfection of the Jewish rituals and pronunciation, and all three actors as they
bring vivid life to their characters... and a good few more besides.
Act 2 is a transition as generations descend and take over. Beale is a wonder as
Philip, and there are some lovely comedy moments.
Sadly, the third act spoils the rest. While it is possible to overlook a lack of
detail about where the capital came from to expand business in act 1; you will
need either a good memory, Google or a copy of the programme to find out where
it all went wrong. Given that at that point we had invested nearly 3 hours of
careful attention, the effect is almost as if writer Stefano Massini and adaptor
Ben Power delivered a final script with a few pages missing. Mendes does his
best, but we need far more than we get.
Rather like a billion dollar byword for reliability failing with shocking
abruptness, so a crash from 5 stars and a standing ovation to 4 stars - with 5
only for acting and script was the monkey's mildly upset opinion.
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