Review: The Lehman Trilogy, National Theatre

Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley are superb in new epic play The Lehman Trilogy at the National Theatre

“Let’s go to this magical music box called America”

At a time when Lady Liberty’s message was actually heeded, when the USA lifted the lamp to its golden door and welcomed all that immigrants could bring, three German Jewish brothers made the journey from Bavaria in the 1840s and set up shop in Montgomery, Alabama. From selling cotton cloth to brokering cotton sales to diversifying into other markets, other cities, they built up their family business into a financial services behemoth, the very embodiment of the American Dream. The name of that firm – Lehman Brothers…

Thus The Lehman Trilogy is a tale of boom to bust. Stefano Massini’s epic play, adapted here by Ben Power in a National Theatre and Neal Street Productions co-production, takes a generational viewpoint to move us through 170 years of American history and three generations of Lehman men. And 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. Not only do they play the brothers, their son and their grandsons, they cover all the other roles as they narrate their own story – it truly is an acting tour-de-force. Continue reading “Review: The Lehman Trilogy, National Theatre”

Review: Heartbreak Hotel, The Jetty

“Please do not disturb”

I’ve been to a couple of plays in hotels already this year but I haven’t gotten to go through the wardrobe in any of them until Heartbreak Hotel, the latest attempt to develop an immersive theatricality in Greenwich which has ranged from the sublime Hotel Medea to the shocking Venice Preserv’d. Par for the course, The Jetty comes equipped with all the accoutrements to make it a destination venue – rooftop bar, pulled pork stands, riverside views and pumping music, but tasty as the barbeque is (I recommend the squid) it’s the theatre we’re concerned with. 

Zoe Wellman and Sam Curtis-Lindsay’s production follows the conceit of multiple stories happening in multiple hotel rooms at the same time, all connected loosely by a similar theme. The audience gets split into groups and traces a path through the hotel which takes us from sado-masochistic relationships, fanboys, self-help sessions… Over the course of an hour, we take on all different kinds of heartbreak as we traverse the corridors and secret passages of this once-grand British seaside establishment with an increasing sense of weirdness taking over the over-arching narrative.  Continue reading “Review: Heartbreak Hotel, The Jetty”

Review: Mr Happiness and The Water Engine, Old Vic Tunnels

“The mind of man is less perturbed by a mystery he cannot explain than by an explanation he cannot understand”

I’ve had something of a varied history in the Old Vic Tunnels since it opened early last year: exciting immersive experiences and one of the worst productions conceivable – I still can’t look at a watering can the same way… And since opening last year, it continued to develop as a performing space, making varied use of the atmospheric arches, and they have now opened up The Screening Room, a brand-new 125-seater space both programmed and run by a team of volunteers to showcase the ‘new’ and offer training and experience in all aspects of theatre creation. The first show mounted here is a double bill of David Mamet radio plays, Mr Happiness and The Water Engine, presented by Theatre6 and MokitaGrit.

The first, short, piece is a one-man-show, David Burt starring as a radio show host playing at agony uncle, reading out letters and dispensing frank advice to his listeners’ personal problems. Silhouettes on the bookshelves behind him enact some of the scenes which adds an extra layer which isn’t strictly necessary as Burt’s sonorous voice and expressive face are more than plenty to guide us through the tangled concerns with a soft but matter-of-fact humour. Continue reading “Review: Mr Happiness and The Water Engine, Old Vic Tunnels”