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Treason the Musical


Alexandra Palace

TREASON THE MUSICAL at Alexandra Palace Theatre


Treason the Musical

“The show is visually stunning, Jason Taylor’s lighting taking centre stage in the vast auditorium while Philip Witcomb’s looming, slatted set opens and closes to successively release and confine the protagonists”

Just as the fireworks are beginning to die down across London, the new musical “Treason” blasts into town on a wave of publicity that casts its fire glow across the rooftops of N22. The light is thrown on a handful of the conspirators who planned to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament on 5th November 1505. It is a day that everybody “remember remembers” even if the detail is buried in the archives. “Treason the Musical” presents us with some of the background which, like the real events, gets a bit lost behind the celebration of the occasion.

We all know Guido ‘Guy’ Fawkes who was hanged for his part in the failed gunpowder plot (no – he wasn’t burned on a bonfire), but – be honest now – who can name the others? It was, perhaps, Robert Catesby (impressively played here by Connor Jones) who masterminded the scheme, spurred on after King James the First backtracked on his promise of greater religious tolerance towards the English Catholics. A reluctant recruit was Thomas Percy, and it is the relationship between Thomas and his wife Martha that dominates much of the story. Guy Fawkes is given the role of narrator, distancing himself from the action while filling us in with the details. It is a neat device, successfully pulled off by the writers Charli Eglinton and Kieran Lynn; but the credit surely goes to Gabriel Akamo who commands the space as Guy Fawkes. With booming voice and charisma, he laments his fame, decrying his status as scapegoat, all the while commenting and directing. It is Akamo who opens and closes the show, instructing us to “remember me”. We would like to see more of his presence in between and sometimes long for him to step down into the throng.

Leading the ensemble are Sam Ferriday and Nicole Raquel Dennis as the newlyweds Thomas and Martha Percy. Ferriday and Dennis form a dynamic duo. No sooner are they married than are wrenched apart as Thomas goes off to “fix things” for the Catholic cause. Jones’ formidable Catesby has recruited him into the gang, along with Robin and Timothy Wintour (Alfie Richards and Lewis Edgar) and Jack Wright (Kyle Cox). All are exceptional singers, with breath-taking harmonic skill in the rousing ensemble numbers, and a controlled, emotive power in their solo numbers and duos. Of which there are plenty. Ferriday and Dennis again shine when they come together in song. Another one to watch for is Emilie Louise Israel – as the peripheral, though striking character, Anne Vaux – whose voice and personality cuts through the chorus to grab our attention.

“This show lights the blue touch paper but again the real explosion eludes us”

On the other side of the fence is Joe McFadden’s King James. Arrogant but a bit dim, McFadden initially plays him for laughs. He is not the villain, as his descent into paranoia manifests itself in the second act, but manipulated by Oscar Conlon-Morrey’s more reprehensible, yet comedic, Robert Cecil who historically uncovered the gunpowder plot (though in this production it is somewhat unclear how or when the whistle was blown and by whom). All the principal players are buoyed by the ensemble, giving justice to Ricky Allan’s anthemic score.

The show is visually stunning, Jason Taylor’s lighting taking centre stage in the vast auditorium while Philip Witcomb’s looming, slatted set opens and closes to successively release and confine the protagonists. There is often an ecclesiastical feel, which does pour over into the narrative, resulting in the show feeling a bit like a sermon in places. The emotions run high, but we often feel it comes from the pulpit rather than from the heart. The overall austere approach is a touch at odds with the attempted quirkiness, and at times the echoes of ‘Les Misérables’ clash with those of ‘Hamilton’.

In 1605 the gunpowder plot failed in its mission. This show lights the blue touch paper but again the real explosion eludes us. There are definite sparks, though, within the plot and between the characters that reach us and make us fizzle momentarily. They say not to return to a firework that doesn’t go off. “Treason the Musical” invites us to ignore that safety rule and we are tempted to give it another go to see if it can find its true light.

TREASON THE MUSICAL at Alexandra Palace Theatre

Reviewed on 9th November 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Danny Kaan






Previously reviewed at this venue:

Bugsy Malone | ★★★★★ | December 2022

Treason the Musical

Treason the Musical

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Man of la Mancha

London Coliseum

Man of la Mancha

Man of la Mancha

London Coliseum

Reviewed – 30th April 2019



“the real star of the show, is Danielle De Niese …her voice soars and enchants with a lilting sweetness and strength”


Man of La Mancha is set in a Detention Centre and begins with the arrival of two new prisoners, Cervantes and his manservant. They have a trunk with them, and the inmates are keen to plunder it. The Governor, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, wants to put Cervantes on trial and confiscate his belongings if he is found guilty, and Cervantes makes his defence in the form of a play; Don Quixote. The Don tilts at windmills and falls in courtly love with Aldonza, a serving girl and part time prostitute in a roadside inn, who he sees as a perfect woman and names his Lady Duncinea. Cervantes casts the other inmates in various roles, and the Governor plays the innkeeper, giving Lyndhurst the opportunity to switch from forbidding to gently incompetent, which he does with skill and evident enjoyment. Cervantes’ manservant and Don Quixote’s squire Sancho Panza are played by Peter Polycarpou, and he is one of the show’s delights. He is funny and touching in his devotion to the eccentric knight, and to his ‘real’ master.

The other delight, and the real star of the show, is Danielle De Niese who plays Aldonza/Dulcinea. She is fiery, strong and vulnerable, angry at Quixote’s refusal to see her for who she really is, coping with the rough muleteers in the inn, who eventually brutalise her, and very touching at the end when she accepts the name Dulcinea for the first time and starts the spine tinglingly beautiful cast version of The Impossible Dream. Her voice soars and enchants with a lilting sweetness and strength, and her acting is powerful and compelling.

It is Kelsey Grammer’s misfortune to be surrounded by a cast of hugely talented singers. His Cervantes/Quixote is engaging and hugely characterful; on the acting front he doesn’t put a foot wrong, but his voice doesn’t stand up well against virtuoso talent such as De Niese. His rendition of ‘Dulcinea’ felt insecure and in his solo ‘Impossible Dream’ he seemed to be bracing himself for the top notes. When the muleteers sing ‘Little Bird’ it is evident that there are some fabulous voices in the ensemble; this is a very strong cast. Emanuel Alba deserves a mention for his lovely comic turn as the barber, and Eugene McCoy’s Duke has a nice touch of the Lucius Malfoys when we first see him.

As you would expect of the Coliseum, the set, lighting and sound, by James Noone, Rick Fisher and Mick Potter respectively, are superb. Rebecca Howell is the choreographer, and she has created some exceptional work, such as the electrifying gypsy dance, for this piece. Fight Director Kate Waters produced a lovely comedy fracas at the inn, and Fotini Dimou’s costume design allows for some impressively quick changes and helps create a convincing world within Noone’s set.

The story of Don Quixote is a love song to the imagination and Man of La Mancha takes us into a double world. Do we prefer the reality or the fantasy? Each of us has to decide for ourselves, but Quixote’s fantasy world has a purity and beauty that entices and enchants.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Manuel Harlan


Man of la Mancha

London Coliseum until 8th June


Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
The Dame | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | January 2019
Boots | ★★★★ | The Bunker | February 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2019
Inspirit | ★★★★ | Vaulty Towers | February 2019
10 | ★★★★ | The Vaults | March 2019
The Thread | ★★½ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2019
Yamato – Passion | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | Park Theatre | April 2019
Little Miss Sunshine | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | April 2019


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