The new musical with faith at its heart
Published on 8 November 2023
A new stage production with faith at its heart exploring the story of the Gunpowder Plot is touring the UK following its premiere in Edinburgh.
Treason: The Musical, which was first conceived by composer and lyricist Ricky Allan in 2019, follows the story of conspirator and devout Catholic Thomas Percy becoming embroiled in the notorious scheme to blow up parliament as he strives to protect his persecuted community.
Narrated by Guy Fawkes it looks at themes such as hope, loyalty and whether violence can ever be justified, with religious motifs such as darkness and light recurring throughout.
Central to the story is the increasing pressure on Percy's relationship with his wife Martha as they choose to go down different moral paths, with Percy following the charismatic and self-destructive Robert Catesby.
Speaking about the concept, Mr Allan said:
"I was inspired to write the show to dig into the real story of the Gunpowder Plot and the historical divisions in British society, and explore how these divisions are still prevalent in our society today.
"We want audiences to leave blown away and highly entertained, whilst provoking discussions."
The show's producer Rev Doug Ross, who is also vicar based in Surrey, explained what drew him to the project.
"It's important to understand where our faith is taking us," he said.
"In ‘Blind Faith' the song we have Martha, Percy's wife, singing about him ‘I have blind faith in Thomas to do the right thing' and Thomas now has blind faith in God.
"But that's a false faith – he's doing the wrong thing inside that faith and it's an interesting juxtaposition.
"It represents all of us who don't realise how we could fall and don't realise that we need to be thinking Christians.
"The important part of the show is: could that be you?
"That's why we made Guy Fawkes the narrator really prompting the audience to think, what you would do in the situation.
One the major issues dealt with is whether violence can be morally justified.
"We get very quickly into Christian ‘just war' theory," Mr Ross says.
"On the one hand the Bible says ‘turn the other cheek, love your enemies and look for peace' and then Jesus on the other hand said ‘lay down your life for your friends'."
"Where we are on the continuum depends on what information we're being fed.
"We are on this journey too, trying to make sense of a Christian framework and the Bible.
The dramatic staging and choreography reflects the depth of what the characters are dealing with, which is also enhanced with thoughtful and engaging performances from the cast.
"The entire cast strives so hard to move out of the darkness into the light but never quite make it," Mr Ross says.
"They see a white cross and they move towards it and are almost there.
"The cross plays a role throughout – sometimes as a weapon."
Set against the backdrop of a newly crowned King James VI and increasing restrictions on Catholics in the early 17th century, Treason: The Musical builds sympathy for them as an oppressed group.
"There are divisions across society and you're in or your out," Mr Ross explains.
"The King is talking about a collective society where everyone gets along at one point, which is everybody's dream but these divisions are so rife.
"There's a clear theme of the persecution of minorities, but that persecution we understand on a level that isn't personalised.
"It's not just about one or two people, it's about the entire establishment trying to push the Catholics underground – driven by greed.
"There are all these advisers plotting in the shadows, so nobody knows what the real truth is.
"There's a fake news concept here."
Taking all of this into account, Mr Ross is hopeful that the production is a "catalyst for the Christian community to start the discussion about tough issues which otherwise wouldn't be thrown up on the table".
For more details of performances taking place later this month in London go to Treason: The Musical's website.