Tag Archives: Michael Balogun

The Lehman Trilogy


Gillian Lynne Theatre

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY at the Gillian Lynne Theatre


The Lehman Trilogy

“Relevant, gripping, foreboding and ultimately touching.”


“The Lehman Trilogy”, spanning over 150 years, is ostensibly an epic drama; an intricate portrayal of a dynasty following fortune and misfortune. Yet it is so much more. The sum of its parts adds up to one of the most extraordinary theatrical experiences. On paper, it is hard to see why. It is nearly three and a half hours long and it charts, in considerable detail, the rocky road of global capitalism, focusing of course on the Lehman brothers. Much of the narrative is unseen, exposed only through the spoken word. But a lecture it most certainly isn’t. A lesson, yes! Stefano Massini’s three act play (adapted by Ben Power) is a fable, parable, an allegory. It is poetry. A magical music box of stagecraft, where style and emotion meet in perfect harmony. A strikingly evocative human tale. And above all, a masterclass in acting.

It all begins on September 11th, 1844. Henry Lehman (Nigel Lindsay), the son of a Jewish merchant, emigrates to America from Bavaria, settling in Alabama; followed by his two brothers – Emanuel (Michael Balogun) and Mayer (Hadley Fraser) – a few years later. We warm to them immediately as they triumph over adversity. We are lulled into the humanity and gentleness with which they fairly rapidly achieve wealth, forgetting momentarily that what follows is a harsh cross-examination of the American Dream. Initially relying on slavery, the Lehmans soon learn to reap profit from disaster (other peoples’). The portents are planted. Yet the family firm survives for a century and a half, weathering the crash of 1929, but finally being swept under by the financial crisis of 2008.

In three acts, Sam Mendes’ production does not flag for one second. And even in its most blatant moments of exposition we are still gripped. Highly stylised, the narrative comes full circle, framed within Es Devlin’s rotating glass and metal set – softened by the symbolism of towering and cascading cardboard boxes. Luke Halls’ mostly monochrome video projections provide a shifting, panoramic backdrop – at key moments bursting into flames of colour and breath-taking movement. Nick Powell’s music underscores throughout, played live by pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam. A cycle of musical phrases and variations, sublime and subliminal, responding to every moment like a lover’s breath. At times restless, playful; sometimes achingly abandoned. All bookended with the evocative Jewish lullaby, ‘Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen’.

But the essence of the piece shines through the finesse and virtuosity of the trio of actors. Lindsay opens as the pioneering spirit Henry, followed by Balogun’s Emanuel and Fraser’s Mayer. Each of them singularly extraordinary and collectively unforgettable. As the timeline stretches, they switch genders to portray multiple characters, while seamlessly shifting down through the generations, morphing into the brothers’ descendants with astonishing versatility. In true tragedian style, the ending is inevitable and as it approaches the pace becomes more frantic – folding in on itself, racing against itself and racing ahead of itself. The events depicted are complex and ethically dubious. “I didn’t try to win… I decided to win”. A mantra that epitomises the Lehman’s strategies that left nothing to chance. The real winner, however, in this saga is the audience.

“The Lehman Trilogy” is a multi-layered extravaganza. Relevant, gripping, foreboding and ultimately touching. Never has capitalism been dressed up in such an alluring metaphor. We are almost seduced. But we are definitely seduced by the quality of the performances. An unmissable triumph that reminds us of theatre’s raison d’être.



Reviewed on 8th February 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Douet


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Cinderella | ★★★★★ | August 2021


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Blue / Orange


Royal and Derngate Theatre

Blue / Orange

Blue / Orange

Royal and Derngate Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd November 2021



“Blue/Orange remains a thought-provoking and relevant play, well-worthy of this new revised production”


This award-winning play by Joe Penhall is set in a London NHS psychiatric hospital where two doctors discuss a possible diagnosis for their patient – schizophrenia, psychosis, neurosis, borderline personality disorder – but we don’t need to fully understand these terms. The crux of the matter is that these two psychiatrists control the freedom of the third man.

The set (Designer Simon Kenny) is a closed black box, no windows, one concealed door. A square on the floor is marked out by a bright white light. Two institutional plastic chairs face each other confrontationally, between them a low table and on it a fruit bowl containing some oranges. Above the stage is suspended a large black block on which a digital clock face is projected showing us the time at the start of each act. The action of the play takes place over a period of one day – the final twenty-four hours before the patient is either free to leave the hospital or he is re-sectioned and detained for a further period.

This is an excellent production. The direction of the players around the space is first-rate (Director James Dacre) and it is hard to find fault in the performances of the three actors. The patient Christopher (Michael Balogun), in grey hoodie, tracky bottoms and trainers, prowls around the space, a caged bear. His moods swing from high spirits to near depression, his movements range from bouncing across the stage to sinking deep in a chair. Balogun convinces us entirely. This man is disturbed, volatile and unpredictable. For him, the oranges in the bowl look blue and, when cut into, the flesh of the orange is blue too. But is he a danger either to himself or others?

Registrar Bruce (Ralph Davis), dressed in grey casual work attire (no men in white coats here), ID lanyard around his neck, suspects that Chris is sicker than he appears and wants to keep him in hospital before his condition deteriorates. But to instruct so means going against the wishes of the Authority and Bruce has his own career ambitions to think about.

Consultant Robert (Giles Terera), in a crisp shirt and smart grey suit and tie, wants Chris released within the day. But Robert also has his own agenda, research to do and a book to write, so how far can he be trusted? Terera shows the self-importance of this man from his first appearance, dominating the space and exuding the character’s class and privilege through perfect posture and enunciation.

The square of the consulting room begins to resemble a sporting arena as both doctors attempt to score points off each other, playing off their patient between them, until just one of them remains standing.

Twenty years since its first production, Blue/Orange remains a thought-provoking and relevant play, well-worthy of this new revised production. And the sincere and honest performances of this cast make a memorable piece of theatre.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Marc Brenner


Blue / Orange

Royal and Derngate Theatre until 4th December


Previously reviewed at this venue in 2021:
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | May 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | July 2021


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