*** DEBUG END ***

Musical theatre: Treason (touring)

13 November 2023

A Guy Fawkes musical sounds a tolerant note, Simon Walsh discovers

Danny Kaan

Sam Ferriday, Connor Jones, and Alfie Richards in Treason: The Musical

Sam Ferriday, Connor Jones, and Alfie Richards in Treason: The Musical

RELIGIOUS conflict is a brave choice for musicals. For one, Boubil and Schonberg’s Martin Guerre, set against France’s Wars of Religion, was not the Les Mis hit that they hoped for. But the theme persists, and a new piece, Treason, brings the Guy Fawkes story to modern audiences. It began life in 2020 as a five-track EP and has now sparked into a fully staged production. Ricky Allen’s music and lyrics have been augmented with a book, additional lyrics, and other material by Charli Eglinton, Kieran Lyn, and Debris Stevenson.

The beginning is a slow burn, but, once it gets into gear, there’s much to take in. The clandestine Roman Catholic wedding of Martha and Thomas Percy in the dying days of Elizabeth I places a love story at the centre of the action, roles to which Nicole Raquel Dennis and Sam Ferriday bring sweetness and passion. They want the freedom to live out their relationship in public and hope that James I, as the new unifying monarch, will bring this. Thomas decides to go to the King, played with impish verve by the Heartbeat heartthrob Joe McFadden, to plead for clemency. But the villainous Chief Minister, Robert Cecil (Oscar Conlon-Morrey, commandingly brilliant), is having none of it, and, besides, the kingdom is broke; so they need to keep up the Catholic fines.

Owing to some local aggro, Martha loses the unborn Percy baby, and Thomas then vows to dethrone the King. A fellow recusant, Anne Vaux, also threads in and out, a part to which Emilie Louise Israel brings superlative vocals. Fawkes, sinister and aloof in Gabriel Akamo’s saturnine portrayal, has been narrating all along, punctuating the action with sounds of a struck match and a ticking clock. Now the plotters get together, although, curiously, Fawkes remains on the outside. The rest is history: they fail, get caught, and die.

The production values are terrific. Hannah Chissick’s direction is crisp and strongly theatrical. Philip Witcomb’s costumes and set of Gothic-lattice doors that concertina in and out against a backdrop of tinderbox-dry planks allies with Jason Taylor’s moody lighting. Nick Pinchbeck and the band go all out on the score, matching the energetic cast, bar by bar. Taylor Walker’s choreography is fluent if occasionally meddlesome.

Danny KaanGabriel Akamo as Guy Fawkes with The Eyes in Treason: The Musical

Does it catch light? More or less, and, at times, it soars. The show owes a great debt to Hamilton — in the flow of the scenes, the gestured shifting of furniture, movement, and even some of the music (including rap). But that was not Lin-Manuel Miranda’s debut, which should be an encouragement to this creative team’s evident talent. A touch more light and shade with a little less full-throttle on so many songs could help.

Fawkes delivers a sermon at the stake at the end as he is being burned, about how we can all live together better, making him almost Anglican after all. Most of the audience leapt to their feet in delight and applauded wildly — not at the execution after the manner of one of his Bonfire Night effigies, but at the show and its message. Religious violence is never a good thing.

At the Alexandra Palace, London N22, until tomorrow. Phone 020 8365 4343. At the London Palladium, Argyll Street, London W1, next Tuesday and Wednesday. Phone 0203 925 2998. treasonthemusical.com

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Job of the Week


The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)