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BWW Interview: Lucie Jones And Oliver Tompsett Chat TREASON THE MUSICAL at Cadogan Hall

The West End stars discuss the new musical retelling of the Gunpowder Plot

BWW Interview: Lucie Jones And Oliver Tompsett Chat TREASON THE MUSICAL at Cadogan Hall
Treason the Musical

Lucie Jones was just about to return to the role of Jenna in Waitress, and Oliver Tompsett was enjoying performing as William Shakespeare in & Juliet, when UK theatres were forced to close in March 2020.

One year on, the West End stars are now appearing in a concert performance of a new musical about the Gunpowder Plot, Treason the Musical, filmed at Cadogan Hall. We spoke to them about the show.

How are you doing in the current lockdown?

Lucie: To be honest, this week doesn't really feel like lockdown anymore because I'm in rehearsals every day. Tonight, we're doing the Sitzprobe with the orchestra. I've just been out for a nice walk with my husband, and then I'm going into town.

It was really tough in January, though. It was just so long, so cold and wet. When it snowed, it felt like we were on holiday! It was a sudden moment of joy for everyone, and I'm so so glad that did happen when it did.

Oliver: I think I adapted very quickly during the last lockdown. During the week, we've been keeping ourselves busy with home-schooling - a challenge in itself! I've also been quite lucky with the odd concert and online show to keep my creative juices flowing. Obviously, it's not a replacement for real theatre, but I feel like I have been very lucky.

The frightening reality is that thousands of people haven't been as lucky, or their craft can't be "streamed online" as easily, such as musicians, set designers, dancers, crew, etc. Even though I've been lucky to work, I do not think this is the way forward!

Oliver, you've been having fun on social media recently with the likes of Mr Dregen and The Masked Singer spin-off, The Masked Wendy! How did they come about?

Oliver: Oh, yes, Mr Dregen comes out whenever my son stops listening to me when I'm trying to teach him!

The Masked Wendy was a bit of fun. I feel like social media can be quite a negative place at times. We'd just come through Christmas and into another lockdown; the weather was bad...everyone was trying to stay connected online.

I thought it would be a good thing for performers and fans to get involved in. It's a bit of silly entertainment, something a bit different. I just ran with it, and I was completely overwhelmed by the number of fellow performers and friends who were so keen to be involved.

And Lucie, you were doing A Christmas Carol during that awful week in the West End when shows opened and then closed!

Lucie: Yeah, it was just such a horrible week when we closed but, that said, we got to do a week of shows. We did eleven shows. Sure, only two of those weren't previews, but it was amazing to be on stage with an orchestra in a huge house like the Dominion Theatre. It was something really, really special.

Despite that, I've actually done a lot of jobs I wasn't expecting to do in the past year, like [Title of Show] with Jenna Russell - just unbelievable - and working with people that I never normally work with because usually, it's them or me on the bill like the Drive-In gigs.

You're both starring in Treason. What can we expect?

Oliver: This is a concert of a new musical by Ricky Allan about the Gunpowder Plot. When I first heard the music, which you can listen to on Spotify etc., it grabbed me immediately.

It's a crossover between that legit old school musical theatre stuff with a pop vibe as well, not dissimilar to, you know, the likes of Hamilton - although you won't be getting any rap from me or anyone else in the show. It's just really good, intelligent musical theatre.

Everyone knows about Guy Fawkes, but he was essentially just the hired muscle. He had experience with explosives but wasn't the brains behind the whole outfit. This show deals with the other characters and their motives behind their actions.

I just thought that the scheme was thought up by a group of people who were angry at the government. When you look into it, you learn how badly Catholics were treated. You start to understand how the circumstances pushed them into extremism and, ultimately, terrorism.

Those themes translate to modern-day times. Religion has forced some people to do despicable things because they've been pushed to a point where their anger is so out of control that they suddenly don't value their lives or anybody else's lives anymore. There's a line in the show that says, "You won't get toleration by killing your foes."

Treason is about how they wanted to make a revolution; they wanted people to stand with them, and they failed and, if anything, made it worse. It's a really powerful story that shows the difference between plotters and their partners. It's also one of the hardest pieces of music I've ever had to learn in my life but it's so clever and refreshing that I think people will love it.

Lucie: The historical musical is very much a genre now, and this one deals with the Gunpowder Plot. Treason is a bit like what Hamilton is for the American founding fathers. We know Guy Fawkes; we know "remember, remember the fifth of November".

Fawkes actually really didn't do that much. He was supposed to light the gunpowder below Parliament Square, but all of the groundwork and planning was done by Rob Casey, Thomas Percy and a whole bunch of other people we learn about in this musical.

I really like the music. It's kind of folky musical theatre. Some moments remind me of Hamilton and other moments when I feel like I'm watching the French Revolution: all of those pivotal things from musical theatre over the years.

I'm very lucky that I get to do quite a few workshops as shows develop, but this one feels really special. Treason is in its early stages. Who knows if I'll ever be a part of it again? Either way, I'll definitely be supporting it and wanting to see it because it's really good.

BWW Interview: Lucie Jones And Oliver Tompsett Chat TREASON THE MUSICAL at Cadogan Hall
Lucie Jones

Who do you play?

Lucie: I play Martha, the wife of Thomas Percy. Thomas starts as a nice normal guy; with Martha, he has a normal relationship, a couple of children etc. Then, he is asked to deliver a message to the king, and their life gets flipped upside down. He becomes an extremist and has this radical lifestyle change. Martha has to grapple with that. She's kind of the story's emotional anchor, which is really, really lovely to play.

There's a lot of violence in the show; a lot of talk about gunpowder, explosions, gunshots, wounds and death. My character is talking about her experience of trying to bring her husband back down to reality.

It's from a different time, so, for example, if my husband decided to be part of an extremist group today, I'd certainly have something to say about it, but, bless Martha! She definitely couldn't have done that at that time. I absolutely love the role's meaty arc.

Oliver: I'm Robert Catesby, the brains behind the plot. He had been in prison on suspicion of being up to something; at the time, you could be in jail for such a thing. His wife died during that time, and because he couldn't be there for her, that pushed him over the edge to become an extremist.

He's a very charismatic man who recruits people to his cause to blow up parliament. If they had succeeded, it would have blown a mile radius around Parliament Square. Even for those days, that's a lot of gunpowder. It's less of a comedy role than Shakespeare!

How are rehearsals going? There seems to be a lot of love among the cast on social media!

Oliver: Yesterday was the first time I heard other performances from the cast. When you only have a few days to prepare for a concert like this, you only listen to your songs, so I'm enjoying getting to know the other numbers in the show. There are so many good songs in the show, and they're being delivered by incredible singers. I think it's a recipe for success.

Lucie: I'm really enjoying it. It's interesting being directed to the camera by our wonderful director, Hannah Chissick. There are moments when we will be right down the barrel of the lens, and we have a narrator with whom we interact in a cinematic kind of way.

As we're trying to be as COVID-safe as possible, we're not all in the room at the same time. The girls sing quite a few things together, so yesterday was a chance to see what the boys are doing.

I get to sing with Bradley Jaden, which is an experience I will never forget. His voice is astonishing. We've also got Cedric [Neal], Oliver, Daniel [Boys], Waylon [Jacobs], Emmanuel [Kojo] and everyone singing the highest notes that I've never had - they're stratospheric.

The girls are wonderful too: Rebecca LaChance, she's got a beautiful folk voice. Then we've got Sharon Rose, who is Eliza in Hamilton currently. It's just an amazing group: I sat there yesterday looking around the room, wondering how I'd blagged my way into this cast!

Do you find you're getting used to this new way of doing things? Should we keep it after lockdown?

Lucie: I hate to say the phrase "new normal", but it kind of is the way it is for the time being, isn't it? I don't even flinch when somebody offers me their elbow for a tap; there are no questions asked when some people want to wear their masks for a run through - everyone has their own level of worry about these things.

For this show, we didn't even need to have extensive conversations about COVID safety because we've all been in a rehearsal room recently, so we know what's going on and how to behave and act. I still have moments where I can't believe we're actually living through this reality, but you just have to pick yourself up and crack on.

I hope we get to a point where we don't have to have a cotton bud up the nose, but it keeps us safe. When we did A Christmas Carol, we didn't have a single cast member go down. The Treason team have been keeping us as safe as possible. That said, it does feel like we're getting there with the vaccines!

Oliver: I've played some big theatres and prestigious stages. I've realised those spaces are nothing if you don't have people in them. They seem to lose their purpose and gravitas without an audience.

While it was a lot of fun filming I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, it's very tricky to do a comedy show about relationships when you've got no audience. But I think our team director did a brilliant job and delivered a good piece of theatre for people who are wanting to get their theatre fix. It served its purpose, but it'll be nice one day to do it again with a live audience.

At the moment, you lose a little bit of the chemistry. One of the best things about being in theatre is it's very sociable. You get to bond with people and to understand and learn about different types of human beings. This isolated, socially distanced stuff at the moment definitely takes the edge off what I normally love most about theatre.

But, you know, there are bigger things at play. It's more important that everybody stays safe and if it means we can still perform, then obviously I would choose to do it this way. I have my fingers crossed that we can get back to the industry that we love as soon as it's safe.

It will be a big shift going from not performing in front of thousands of people every night to suddenly being in front of that many people again. Suddenly jumping back into dancing and singing eight shows a week under those lights, working those hours is going to be massive. It will be very easy to get caught up in the adrenaline of it all.

Any other projects coming up that you'd like to tell us about?

BWW Interview: Lucie Jones And Oliver Tompsett Chat TREASON THE MUSICAL at Cadogan Hall
Oliver Tompsett

Oliver: We're hopefully getting close to being able to relaunch & Juliet. Nothing is confirmed yet, but it seems like other productions are starting to announce opening again. It's getting to the point where I can't take on new things because my priority is to be involved with the show I was in before we were shut down.

Lucie: David Hunter and I will be performing at Cadogan Hall on 30 May, and we should be allowed to have an audience. It's almost sold out, but there are still a handful of tickets. We're hoping that closer to the time, we might release more tickets if restrictions allow. We'll also be debuting some original songs. That will be the first concert I've done with an audience since my solo show at the Adelphi, so it'll be quite an experience. David and I have such a laugh together.

Which of the characters you've played would you most and least like to be with in lockdown?

Lucie: Oh, good question! I'm going to say I'd most like to be locked down with Elle Woods because she's so positive and fun. And maybe Jenna too because she'd make loads of pies!

Maureen wouldn't be fun, I think. I'd be like, "Babe, I just want to watch Netflix. Can you just give me a minute?"

Oliver: I'd least like to be locked down with Shakespeare or Fiyero because they can be a bit narcissistic. I mean, they're likeable guys, but there's just a little bit of arrogance there.

And who would I most like to hang out with? Not Galileo; he was annoying; he'd just be screaming in my face all the time. I'm going to go with Sky Masterson because he's a cool guy to hang out with, although I think he'd really dislike me. I think Sky would get a bit bored with my singing!

Why should people book tickets to Treason?

Oliver: You should book tickets to Treason because the music is sensational. You'll learn some stuff about the Gunpowder Plot that you didn't know before and learn it in a fun way with a great orchestra and some fantastic singing.

If you're sort of a fan of musicals like Les Mis and Martin Guerre but also like contemporary musical theatre, this is definitely for you. Get your tickets and come and hear us performing some of the hardest songs I've heard in musical theatre for a long time.

Lucie: Treason is an astonishing hour of musical theatre to listen to. It's exciting to hear these new songs, and supporting new work at this time is vital. The more we can support companies putting themselves out there at the moment, the more solid we will feel as an industry.

Also, you don't usually get to see a musical at the workshop stage. That usually happens behind closed doors; you sign an NDA, and you're not allowed to talk about it. This concert is great because people don't usually get to see a show at this stage.

It's also just got a bit of everything. There's a love story, betrayal, and some high octane moments, even in the concert version! It really takes you on a ride.

Treason the Musical at Cadogan Hall is available to stream online from 12 March

Photo credit: Michael Shelford (Lucie Jones image) and Amy Cassidy (Oliver Tompsett image)

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