As part of National Theatre Live’s 10th Birthday season, five-time Olivier Award nominated play, The Lehman Trilogy was filmed live in London’s West End.
Directed by Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes (Skyfall, King Lear, and starring Simon Russell Beale (King Lear, The Tragedy of King Richard the Second), Adam Godley (Suits, Breaking Bad) and Ben Miles (The Crown), this gripping tale of the American Dream was adapted as part of Ben Power’s English version of Stefano Massini’s vast and poetic play.
On a cold September morning in 1844, a young man from Bavaria stands on a New York dockside. Dreaming of a new life in the new world, he is joined by his two brothers and an American epic begins. 163 years later, the firm they establish – Lehman Brothers – spectacularly collapses into bankruptcy, and triggers the largest financial crisis in history.
Adam Godley, widely known for his television stints in Breaking Bad and Suits, and with an incredibly impressive career that spans over 45 years, has embarked on this adventure as part of the NT Live family.
You have crossed over from stage to screen, and you’ve also crossed over into the American and British markets – the stage was your grounding, but which is your first love?
“I don’t really have a first love in that sense. I love them all for very different reasons. I treat them all as very diferent jobs. What keeps me interested is variety. I was fortunte enough to start my career in the UK where there is such a wealth of theatre – so for any actor to have a grounding in theatre is such a fantastic start in your career. I have always been passionately interested in film so that was always something I wanted to get into as well.”
“I am lucky enough now to go backwards and forwards between theatre, film, TV, doing it all. I feel very privileged in that respect. I find jumping back and forth keeps me interested. I have been acting for such a long time now, I started when I was a child. For 45 years I have been an actor, so to keep hungry, passionate and interested can be tricky over a long period of time.”
“Jumping between these mediums is one way to keep my passion and excitement for the job and recognizing that I am completely fortunate to be able to do that.”
With everything you’ve done – is there a specific moment that has stood out for you?
“I was a child actor, and as a child actor you don’t really have technique. I spent a lot of time in my teens and early 20s doing a lot of classes. Althought I didn’t have a formal training, I had a fair amont of expereince, and so I had to work on my technique. At that time, I was also working in odd jobs, to make a living, to keep body and soul together, to pursue my dream.. I would write to every theatre in the UK, begging them for a job, and I remember marching to the letter box with a stack of letters, hoping. One day I got a reply from Alan Ayckbourn Theatre Company in Scarborough and he asked me to audition for him. I auditioned, he called me to do a season of plays in Scarborough. It was an incredible moment, because I felt like someone believes in me, someone is giving me a chance and from that point on, he really put my career back on track. I owe him a huge debt.”
“That has always stayed with me; that moment when you need someone to believe in you, when you need someone to give you a chance and how transformative that is.”
“That for me was an absolutely key moment in my career in my 20s, when I had come out of being a child actor and into that transition. I ended up doing three seasons in scarborough and he ended up writing a couple of roles for me in his plays, which then transferred to London and it really put my career back on track.”
“There was absolutely nothing else I wanted to do or felt inclined towards. I was lucky enough to find the thing that I was passionate about, the thing that I could earn a living from, and pursue a long career in doing something I love so much. It is these people along the way who give you a chance, and believe in you; directors, theatre companies, people who put their trust in you – you are standing on the shoulders of all these people who put their trust in you.”
With NT LIVE, you are combining stage and screen – do you have to change your style of acting to fit both the stage and the screen genres at all?
“The whole ethos of the NT Live project, which is such a fantastic intitiavie, is to allow as many people as possible access to the theatre. The whole ethos is
when you are watching, you are watching a stage performance. So it is very important that changes are not made. When you go to a movie theatre and are watching this play, you are seeing it exactly as it is performed on stage. So for us practically speaking, we are very conscious that what we are doing, is exactly what we would do any other night, there just happen to be cameras there to capture it. So we didn’t make any alterations or changes at all. Lighting might be very different but what you see in the cinema, is exactly what we do every night with the play on stage.”
You’ve done so many diferent bodies fo work, but I noticed that you have done many historical pieces – is this a favourite genre of yours?
“This play has resonance for me. My father was an immigrant; my family all came from Russia. The story definitely touches on elements of my family story, so it felt personal to me. The wonderful thing about the National Theatre In London, is that it is a temple to theatre and you are given every resource in that building to create as good theatre as you can make. The whole thing is about creating the best theatre for the people. For this project, it was about all of these factors that attracted me to it, and obviously the specifics of working again with Sam Mendes and the whole creative team. Everything about this production was attractive to me.”
“I am attracted to good stories and good writing, and this trilogy ticks all those boxes. It’s a family story, an extraordianary history of how capitalism developed in America. It is a personal story about the relationship of these three brothers, coupled with Sam’s vision of telling the story.”
“Think of yourself as a child; when someone read you the most incredible story, and your imagination just soared – this is the ultimate version of that. We will take you on a journey of these characters, with someone telling you the most incredible story. It is a pure piece of theatre; of theatrical magic.”
Book now for The Lehman Trilogy, showing at Cinema Nouveau and Gateway Commercial KwaZulu-Natal on 24, 25, 28 and 29 August – visit the website at www.sterkinekor.com or download the SK App.
You can also book at the box office. For news and updates, go to Facebook page: Ster-Kinekor and follow Ster-Kinekor on Twitter: @sterkinekor or @nouveaubuzz. For all queries, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).
Watch the creative team, including director Sam Mendes and designer Es Devlin, introduce the production here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnKJ2Vx1FLI
You can watch the trailer for The Lehman Trilogy here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=23&v=66vAn9prpS8