Review Round Up: The Lehman Trilogy, National Theatre

Sam Mendes directs this production of Stefano Massini’s play starring Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley. Here Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews…


The Guardian: ***** “The joy of Mendes’s impeccable production lies in watching the actors at work as they switch genders and ages to evoke multiple characters.”

There Ought to be Clowns:  “in the hands of Simon Russell Beale (Henry), Ben Miles (Emanuel) and Adam Godley (Mayer), they could scarcely be better in Sam Mendes’ sleekly poised and pacey production.”

BBC:  **** “The use of language and the rhythmical way it is delivered by the actors has the feel of a music score. It seems a ridiculous thing to say of a play about bankers, which one might imagine could well be filled with anger and resentment, but it is often beautiful.”

Variety: “Mendes’ staging glides glossily on, ever so secure for a story centered on risk. Massini’s script is poor theatre, a story built out of nothing. Mendes’ high-end staging is most certainly not. It’s artful, richly layered, elegantly done, but it’s also missing that vital spark of life. Say a kaddish, but then think on.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “But what I love is the way that the script and the performances allow, even in the headlong hurtle of an epic, small, light touches of meaning.”

Time Out: **** “an elegantly told voyage through American history, and one that sheds plenty of light on the country’s present, turbulent shape.”

The Independent: **** “The final strait seems a bit rushed and it’s odd how the slave-question is dealt in the sections covering the Civil War. But, in general, this is a powerful, thought-provoking play and Mendes has directed it with extraordinary elegance and penetration.”

Culture Whisper: **** “The Lehman Trilogy is still excellent storytelling, and is certainly a strong addition to the National’s programme this year.”

Evening Standard: **** “There are moments when this politically charged saga risks feeling like a dramatised Wikipedia entry. Yet it’s absorbingly performed by a cast of just three, attuned to its poetry and humour.”

The Telegraph: **** “this isn’t a hydra-headed, David Hare-style lesson in economic nuance but a lean three-hander in which the hubristic history of American capitalism takes on the deceptive charm of a folk tale.”

The Times: ***** “Sam Mendes’s magnificent tale of bank brothers is right on the money.”

Broadway World: ***** “Crucially, the play never loses sight of the people at the heart of the story, even as history comes to judge them.”

Radio Times: **** “By the close you still won’t be able to explain the difference between a credit default swap and a collateralised debt obligation, but you’ll have a fascinating and unexpected new perspective on a story you thought you knew all too well. And you’ll have been thoroughly entertained into the bargain.”

The FT:  *** “As such, the tale has no intrinsic value as a substance, nor any conferred market value as a tradable good; its value is declared only. Philip Lehman would surely have avoided dealing in that kind of thing.”

The Metro: **** “Told directly to the audience like a reading of scripture, it’s a story that emphasises the extent to which these brothers are both devout and sceptical. It’s their outsider status and questioning nature, the play suggests, that allowed the three to see opportunities in America’s headlong rush towards modernity that others missed.”

British *** “There is some excellent staging but, unlike the recurring nightmare, the dramatic stakes are not raised high enough to thrill or have a sense of risk, as admirable and enjoyable as the acting is.”

The Upcoming: **** ” By the end the play does finally run out of steam, just when you want it to be at its sharpest, the focus on the family preventing the story from properly grappling with anything but the seeds of the financial crisis. Yet maybe Massini doesn’t need to say any more. We’ve already seen the world put up for sale.”

London Box Office: *** “It’s big news that movie director Sam Mendes took the helm on this one but his staging, along with Stefano Massini’s play as adapted by Ben Power, though admirable is, ultimately unsatisfying.”

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “while there is nothing on this earth so adorable as Russell Beale playing camp mischief, the reduction of women to objects of ridicule becomes a cloying factor.”

London Theatre1: ***** “The Lehman Trilogy is a triumph and a tragedy. That it should all end in a shoebox is a sobering comeuppance.”

Theatre Cat: “Moral, intriguing, endlessly  entertaining, a fluent  masterclass from three of our finest actors.  Awed. ”

The Lehman Trilogy continues to play at the National Theatre until the 20th October. For more information visit:


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