Treason at Alexandra Palace

Treason is a musical currently in development and one with a huge amount of talk behind it. From a 5 track EP featuring Rosalie Craig and Hadley Fraser through to last years 2 night concert a Drury Lane and culminating in this fully staged version, playing in Edinburgh, Sheffield and London.

The show follows the gunpowder plot of 1605, narrated by Guy Fawkes but with a focus on Martha and Thomas Percy and their quest to ensure parity for Catholics in England following King James’ rise to the throne. After violence lands at Percy’s door this forces him down the route of extremism and to the fateful night of the 5th November.

The book comes at the musical from a different angle to one that many would expect and this is a pleasant surprise however at times is difficult to follow. The book jumps around and I struggled to understand the relationship between Thomas Percy and Guy Fawkes along with the rest of the plotters. Whilst the focus is on Martha and Thomas’ marriage this means there are a lot of questions in Act 2 when the gunpowder plot begins to take shape and the treasonous act itself comes across as a hurried afterthought towards the end of the show. The story itself is one that does hold a lot of intrigue so at times the book itself feels like there were many wasted opportunities to build on this however with some tweaking there is a lot of potential. The show has a contemporary feel to it and Guy Fawkes final speech brings the story and sentiment right up to date, a clever spin on the story.

Ricky Allan’s score is a mixed bag, there are some stunning stand alone songs such as ‘Blind Faith,’ and ‘Caught In The Crossfire,’ however many of the other numbers seem to merge and/or are forgettable. In a show that could be an epic I would have also have loved some bigger sounding ensemble numbers but all of the standout moments were solos or duets.

The staging of Treason is impressive. The set by Philip Witcomb conjures up the 1600’s as well as the plotting feeling with a multitude of doors across the towering wooden set. The bridge at the back provides a great level for the King’s address and the use of Alexandra Palace’s own features give the show a sense of site which worked well. The lighting captures the feeling of light pouring in through the wooden slats perfectly and creating an eerie atmosphere.

Performances across the board are of a very high standard but on the whole the performers are fighting with under developed characters. Nicole Raquel Dennis played Martha Percy and they brought a great balance of strength and vulnerability to the part. Their vocals soared across the theatre and her duet with Emilie Louise Israel as Anne Vaux brought the house down. Sam Ferriday played Thomas Percy, filled with angst and brooding along with really strong vocals. Joe McFadden had a hard job with King James, the part has little depth to it and it was difficult to understand if the role was a comedy one or serious one and the audience therefore struggled to know where they sat and when was appropriate to laugh.

Treason has been a hugely anticipated and much hyped show but one that still needs more work and development on the book and characters before it lives up to the expectations that much of the audience had for it.

Treason is on at Alexandra Palace until 18th November and then on at the London Palladium on 21st and 22nd November. To find out more visit their website.

If you like this review of Treason you might also like my review of Seize the Cheese, Lizzie and Operation Mincemeat.

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