Set in 1605, where “being Catholic is treason”, Treason tells the tale of the famous gunpowder plot which would have been the bloodiest event in British history. In a world completely divided between Protestants and Catholics, everything is at stake as the decision must be made whether to hide in the shadows or fight what you believe in.
The story follows the plotters, Robert Catesby (Simon-Anthony Roden) and Thomas Percy (Bradley Jaden) and the famous Guy Fawkes (Sebastian Harwood), although he was not a lead. Thomas Percy’s wife, Martha (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is an essential part to the plot, knowing more than anyone what was at risk.
The show opens with the Narrator (Debris Stevenson) who introduces the plot and sets the scene in Britain in 1605. The story unfolds in a rap style, which becomes artistically complementary when the dance ensemble mirror her speech in their movement. Various styles of music are used throughout the show, but Stevenson’s exceptional delivery makes for easy listening and a style that should certainly be kept going forward. However, the rhymes could have been more imaginative as they felt simple and predictable at times.
Fletcher lights up the stage in her performance of ‘The Inevitable’, mesmerising the audience both with the power in her voice and her control. Her facial expressions together with the feeling in her voice provide for an exceptionally captivating performance. Fletcher is almost in a league of her own with the material she has been given, with only the tone and power behind the voice of Dorothy Wright (Emilie Louise Israel) being a worthy match. Israel’s voice is a huge asset to the show, and deserved more exposure. The women’s power ballad, ‘Caught In The Crossfire’ was a beautiful display of all six women’s voices, their harmonies beautifully balanced.
As husband and wife, the chemistry between Fletcher and Jaden is palpable and believable, immersing the audience completely in their love story during the opening numbers. Their duet ‘Blind Faith’ in the second act was a stunning performance, their voices blending together effortlessly. Jaden’s voice is controlled, yet strong and dominating, lending itself to this material.
While there is a particularly serious tone to the show throughout, King James (Daniel Boys) and his interactions with Robert Cecil (Les Dennis) provide some light-hearted relief in times of need. Boys’ impressively held notes fit the King’s character well, the King seeming the only fully developed character in the show. The screen behind the orchestra also correlated with the King’s mood and musical numbers, creating a slapstick feel. Dennis’ rendition of ‘Paperwork’ was charming and funny, also gaining sniggers from the performers sat on stage. While the cast being present on stage throughout the performance is an artistic choice for this concert style of performance, at times the actors fidgeting and referring to sheet music in the background became a focal point and a distraction.
When the cast all sang together, the energy was electric, their harmonies and voices creating a sense of togetherness in the fight for freedom. ‘Burn’ created a huge impact on stage and left the audience feeling ready to join the fight. Unfortunately, one of the lead numbers ‘Take Things Into Our Own Hands’ fell slightly flat, the male harmonies feeling a little amiss and clunky at times.
The show as a concert worked well, the audience gripped enough throughout. However, it felt difficult to sympathise with the characters during some numbers as the story became lost and overall did not feel complete. While the cast individually were strong, going forward into a full-scale production, each character could be developed further to allow the audience to be taken on a journey with them. Finally, the dancers from Urdang Academy were flawless in their choreography, and appeared at the appropriate moments within the show. The London Musical Theatre orchestra were faultless, providing smooth transitions and allowing the actors to be able to focus on their passion in delivering their skilled performances.
Treason The Musical In Concert is playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until tonight, 23rd August 2022, last minute tickets may be purchased from: https://treasonthemusical.com/treason-in-concert/
Reviewer: Maani Way
Reviewed: 22nd August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★