Treason the Musical in Concert is centred around the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in 17th century England.

Credit: Mark Senior

Treason follows the Percys, a leading Catholic family at the time, and the men who came to be known as the Gunpowder Plot Conspirators. It shoves to the sidelines one of the time period’s most famous figures, Guy Fawkes, in order to try and embrace its writer’s ‘fascination for the untold stories of our own history’ – except some crucial details seem to be missing from those very ‘untold stories.’

Who has heard of Thomas and Martha Percy before? As I sat down, the people around me were ferociously reading their programmes, trying to get some context on the history because they didn’t know much about the people or the time period. That was probably a good call given the show doesn’t fill those gaps very well, making it really difficult to connect with the characters. Their devotion to God, their husbands and wives, or fame and money is unquestionable and widely reflected by the music (written by Ricky Allan and Kieran Lynn). But, that is as far as the exploration of their individualities go. Their motivations beyond their faith are not examined enough for the audience to be able to relate to the material on a personal level (unless you’re an extremely religious person, I guess?). I wanted to know why these men are willing to lose their lives for their freedom to practice their religion. What is their story? What led them to that point? Who taught them to love God, and what was their relationship with that person? Show me the reasons behind their faith – because there is always a reason.

My hope for more character background was in Debris Stevenson’s role as the narrator. In an attempt to modernise a show that uses poetic rhyming for the dialogues, they introduce a narrator who raps her lines, which is a confusing choice. She navigates the story with very minimum interaction with the other characters to simply present what comes next, which unfortunately doesn’t add much to the plot. I wonder if there would be more depth to her role and the story as a whole if she were a character, too, instead of merely a narrator.

Struggling to connect with the story doesn’t take anything away from the mesmerising vocal moments the cast provides, though. Carrie Hope Fletcher (Martha Perry) starts the 17th century section of the show with hypnotizing soft notes only to build up power to the point of minute-long applauses. Bradley Jaden (Thomas Perry) and his multiple operatic moments provide grandeur and elegance to the lyrics. Simon-Anthony Rhoden as a somber Robert Catesby brought an emotional performance of what was my favourite song in the show, ‘Cold, Hard, Ground.’ A beautiful choir of women came together with the rest of the characters for a number about the role of women at the time. I really wish this had been explored throughout the show rather than during only one song to give those women the character development they deserve. Maybe in the future, the show could include this more prominently.

It would’ve been interesting to see them explore the dual meaning of the title ‘Treason’ by delving into what it means in the historical context versus what it means for Thomas and Martha’s relationship, and how they dealt with Thomas choosing to prioritise the fight. Unfortunately, that did not happen. There is a lot of focus on the religious element, leaving an empty space where the characters’ personal desires, fears, and joys could go. I’m curious to know where it goes from here; the right talent can clearly do wonders, but it needs tidying up if it wishes to make its mark as a British historical musical like a certain American show did.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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