This new musical is concise, dark and passionate – certainly worth developing further.
Transforming the events behind the infamous gunpowder plot, Ricky Allan (music, lyrics and book) and Kieran Lynn’s (book) new musical Treason is a dark and concise show that captures the era perfectly through its music – even if the characters could use a bit more development.
Focusing predominately about the events and the build up to the failed assassination attempt, the story behind Treason is mainly told through the impressively written music that captures the plot as well as the passion of the plotters and the feelings of their loved ones. Running at just 50 minutes long, it is a remarkably focused show – even in this concert performance that shows off the potential for it to be developed further.
Directed by Hannah Chissick, every drop of passion that is to be found in the show is wonderfully drawn out in this concert performance – highlighted particularly during ‘Take Things into Our Own Hands’ in which the plotters led by Robert Catesby (Oliver Tompsett) share their frustration and anger about King James going back on his word about being fair to Catholics. Like so many songs to feature in Treason the Musical, it is a raw and powerful moment that has been brilliantly crafted to show the point of no return.
Meanwhile, other songs that particularly standout and make the audience pay attention include the brutally honest ‘The Cold Hard Ground’ in which Catesby is aware what he is doing is dangerous and can lead to his death – but his determination for freedom to be Catholic and not be persecuted means he is more than determined to see it through no matter the consequences. Meanwhile, ‘When Will I See You Again’ and ‘Blind Faith’ are beautifully haunting and heartbreaking in equal measures.
But I also admired the style of the narration that is on display. The poetic quality of the words that capture the history in a light and informative way is matched in the way in which Debris Stevenson as narrator delivers them with such frankness draws the audience in further to the story. Meanwhile, the story is made incredibly clear – which is great for those who perhaps don’t know the exact details leading up to the failed assassination.
It does have to be said that Treason does need to expanded a bit more in terms of character development and filling out even more detail about the lead up to the events of November 5th 1605. The audience does need deeper understanding of the characters and their backstory to really get to grips with what occurs – however of course this easily rectified the further that this musical develops over time.
This being said, this concert production features a strong cast – who I hope will return to the roles on a later basis. In particular, Oliver Tompsett as Robert Catesby delivers a strong, passionate and charismatic character – a commanding leader. His energy and passion shine through every moment that he is involved and is enjoyable to watch. Elsewhere, Daniel Boys is a delightfully flamboyant and petulant King James, Bradley Jaden charmingly naive as Thomas Percy and Lucie Jones as Martha Percy certainly deserves more time for her character to be developed. The whole thing is wonderfully narrated with great style and personality by Debris Stevenson.
Overall, this might be a bleak musical in terms of plot but it is also filled with passion and focus that makes it compelling to watch – even if you know how the story ends. Let’s hope that the work already done on this musical can be taken a bit further to be enjoyed as a full scale production.
By Emma Clarendon
Treason the Musical in Concert continues to be streamed until the 14th March. To book tickets visit: https://treasonthemusical.com/.