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Live / stage review

"Technically impressive, beautifully performed and atmospheric": Treason the Musical

Treason the Musical uses eclectic musical styles to tell the story of Bonfire Night and should not stand in the shadow of the more famous Hamilton, according to reviewer Paul Szabo.

A man wearing a white feather headdress and a blue cloak on a stage.

Dan Gill in Treason The Musical

Danny Kaan

Arriving with impeccable timing, Treason The Musical adorned the stage of the Lyceum in the run up to Bonfire Night, with the tale of the characters behind the infamous gunpowder plot. Following the broken promises of King James to repeal the worst of the Elizabethan anti-Catholic legislation and allow the Catholic community to live without persecution, a group of men band together to seek revenge on the king with a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

Whilst their failure in doing so is widely known, their largely untold story of the events that led up to the formation of the plot and, ultimately, to their demise is laid out in this brand-new theatrical production.

Treason is a mishmash of genres, offering an eclectic mix of styles in its music, choreography, and script; from spoken word to beat poetry, from sweeping operatics to more traditional showtunes and from folk dance to street dance, the juxtaposing styles all melt together in a blend of the modern and the traditional.

One of the most striking things about the production is the quality of the vocal performances, nowhere more evident than Sam Faraday, who led the cast as Thomas Percy, the main protagonist, with rich vocals and a simply stunning voice that was perfectly suited to the songbook. Nicole Raquel Dennis hits the high notes without the need for unnecessary vocal gymnastics, and was compelling as Martha, Percy’s devoted wife.

Whilst there are a few moments of scripted interactions between the characters, the show is mainly sung, with the songs propelling the narrative forward and clearly explaining the characters' motivations and relationships, the first act in particular was the most enjoyable, musically. The entire cast should be commended for their perfect diction, every word of every song could be clearly heard and understood, and the mix between the vocals and the orchestration was perfect; qualities that can often be lacking in many shows.

There are also some excellent production values on offer. There are beautifully designed costumes coupled with a detailed and versatile set, which allows for scenes, backdrops and furnishings to smoothly transition around the actors as they perform without interruption or pause. Alongside that, there is a highly effective lighting design, with candles that adorn the stage giving out a warm glow and contrast sharply with the stark white shafts of light permeating the smoke-filled stage at times.

There is no denying that the show looks beautiful and nurtures an engaging and encompassing tone within the confines of the theatre.

Two long-haired women, who look like they're in a confrontation, on a stage.

Nicole Raquel Dennis in Treason The Musical

Danny Kaan

The downsides were generally few and far between. Choosing the character of Guy Fawkes as the narrator meant that, for me, he was too distanced from the unfolding drama on stage and his involvement with the other characters and with the historical event itself was never really explored. Overall, the second act felt a little long, especially when the attempted execution of the gunpowder plot itself felt so rushed, making it seem slightly anti-climactic against the build-up to the moment, which I would anticipate most of the audience had been waiting for.

Treason has been referred to as “the British equivalent to Hamilton” and such comparison, in my view, is unfair. Whilst both are sung though musicals that fuse old and new to recount a significant moment in history, Treason The Musical has more than enough to enable it to stand aside from the shadow cast by Hamilton. It should be heralded in its own right as a technically impressive, beautifully performed and atmospheric piece of theatre.

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