Treason the Musical
Ricky Allan, Charli Eglinton, Kieran Lynn
Katy Galloway Productions, Piers Cottee-Jones Entertainment, Square Peg Productions
The gunpowder plot is a famous event in British history because it so nearly succeeded in destroying Parliament, the ruling class of the time and the new King, James the First. England had become a Protestant Country under Henry VIII and the suppression of Catholics continued under the rule of Elizabeth. While some Catholics believed that James would be more sympathetic to their cause, they were soon disabused and those with bitter experience of imprisonment, the confiscation of property and personal suffering were set on overthrowing the existing regime.
Robert Bolt explored the early effects of the schism in his 1960s play A Man for All Seasons, and, because this included verbal debate, the political, personal and religious issues were presented in some complexity. A broad brush is applied in Ricky Alan’s presentation of the gunpowder plot as musical theatre, and, although Charli Eglinton and Kieran Lynn’s book provides additional information, the focus of the action is on personal and emotive responses by the characters involved and an inevitable simplification of events.
However, as musical theatre, this is a dynamic performance with the elements of the genre—powerful singing, an excellent accompanying band, opportunities for choreographed movement—strongly represented.
Philip Witcom’s set and costume design is true to the period and provides a convincing context for the action. The set of slatted walls and cathedral-like windows is highly adaptable and scene changes are delivered with interesting variety. James’s heavy throne is carried on and off as if choreographed, and the height of the set provides James with a dominant position to address his subjects, whom we see from behind. Jason Taylor’s lighting design complements the set perfectly with light beams falling from above like water from shower heads.
The production has an impressive cast, all of whom have powerful musical theatre voices and considerable stage presence. Sam Ferriday as Thomas Percy and Nicole Raquel Dennis as Martha Percy are dominant characters who carry much of the action. Percy becomes a convert to the plot after his wife is brutally beaten in the street, while Martha expresses her well-founded anxiety about what would happen to the conspirators if the plot was discovered. Connor Jones as Robert Catesby is the sinister leader of the plot, who has every reason for bitterness and the demeanour of a fanatic. There are strong supportive performances from Jack Wright, Anne Vaux, Alfie Richards and Lewis Edgar as fellow conspirators.
Gabriel Akamo links the narrative and performs as Fawkes, who is less involved in the planning but vital in the implementation of the plot as the hands-on conspirator who piles up enough barrels of gunpowder to take down the whole building.
The establishment is effectively represented by Joe McFadden as a self-interested King James and Oscar Conlon-Morrey as Robert Cecil, a Polonius-like, high-ranking Lord Privy Seal.
A talented group of singers and dancers are 'The Eyes' who provide choral support and rhythmic dance sequences choreographed by Taylor Walker. An exciting and timely version of the Gunpowder Conspiracy with a cast who give it their all.
Reviewer: Velda Harris