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1605 And All That

by Anthony Merryweather & Nick Paterson

... an ideal musical for an all boys school, or a school with few female actors ...

Youth Musical Theatre: '1605 And All That' by Merryweather & PatersonSynopsis

A fabulous musical for schools; not so much a black comedy, more a black pantomime telling the tale of the Gunpowder Plot. A certain amount of audience participation is encouraged at various points in the proceedings.

In some respects this is very much a tale of our time, given the central, underlying reason for the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament was religious intolerance - in this instance Protestants vs Catholics.

Youth Musical Theatre: '1605 And All That' by Merryweather & Paterson

Queen Elizabeth I on her deathbed, charges Lord Robert Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury and her Secretary Of State, to continue the subjugation of the country's Catholic population. Cecil, the archetypal villain in the play accepts her wishes with relish - he enjoys subterfuge, coercion, conspiracy and manipulating people. With the passing of the old Queen, King James (a shallow and stupid man) is crowned and his sycophantic supporters, notably Lord Thomas Percy, then find it easy to persuade him to relax the previous persecution of Catholicism. Lord Cecil however quickly reminds the new King of the debt he owes him, and the relaxation is swiftly reversed.

Percy, in despair over this, discusses the problem over a pint of ale with his friend Robert Catesby - a hothead who has hatched a plan to strike at the very heart of the Protestant parliamentarians; the Gunpowder Plot. Cecil, adopting the role of spymaster, listens in to their conversation, and then 'leans' on the landlord to eavesdrop on any future meetings, or his pub will be burnt to the ground.

Catesby and Percy decide to interview prospective conspirators needed for the execution of the plan. These conspirators are recruited from a group of rather odd people, who each have a certain peculiarity, during a Pythonesque scene which is more pantomime than play. Cecil by this time is fully aware of their plans, but not the timing. He blackmails Francis Tresham to infiltrate their number to find this out for him.

Act Two opens with the conspirators moving the barrels of gunpowder into position, while Cecil with Tresham in his power mocks their preparations. The scene changes to one where King James presides over a session of Parliament with such topical matters discussed as bridlepath congestion, the break-up of the nationwide 'coach and four' network into many, smaller companies resulting in late arrivals, and the problem of old people having to wait six months for a doctor to apply leeches to them. The Chief Minister (a thinly disguised Tony Blair) arrives late and attempts to paint a rosy picture of these problems, until the King decides he has heard enough.

Youth Musical Theatre: '1605 And All That' by Merryweather & PatersonFawkes prepares to light the fuse, but is discovered at the vital moment by Cecil, and is carted off to The Tower, where three torturers (Jack the Rack, Hugh the Screw and Brian the Iron) in preparing their instruments of torture carry on a conversation full of gallows humour. More pantomime here, with the 'Oh, yes we do - Oh no we don't' audience routine, finally resulting in Fawkes signing a confession. Cecil having no further use for Tresham then 'despatches' him, before giving the damning evidence at the trial of the conspirators sitting before the Attorney General, Lord Edward Coke. Being a sadist, Coke delights in giving each of the remaining eight conspirators their sentence of death, becoming more 'over the top' with each one. The musical closes with Fawkes being given one last chance to reiterate his innocence, before he too is snuffed out.

'1605 And All That' has an exceptionally well-written script with excellent musical numbers that complement the story being told. The subject matter is covered in an easy-to-understand manner in a generally comedic style which ranges from satire to slapstick. Whilst historically all the characters except Queen Elizabeth were male, and thus shown in the script as male, it would be possible for many of the roles to be played by female actors pretending to be men.


Principals (8m/f)
  King James I - a 'fop', concerned only with his image and how he's perceived, has few friends, is terrified of Cecil.
  Lord Robert Cecil - an archetypal villain, omnipresent, omniscient, hates Catholics and has a lust for power
  Robert Catesby - a young, energetic hothead, fully committed to the Catholic cause
  Thomas Percy - aristocratic flatterer of the King, slavish follower of Catesby
  Guy Fawkes - deeply committed to the Catholic cause, recognises that he is just a pawn in Catesby's plan
  Lord Edward Coke - the Attorney General. A final scene cameo role
  Francis Tresham - an archetypal dupe, easily blackmailed by Cecil, the 13th conspirator
  Landlord - self-important prig, easily swayed by Cecil
Supporting Cast (14m/f)
  Queen Elizabeth I - old and ill. A small melodramatic cameo role
  Flunkey - a servant of King James
  Bates - the faithful servant to Robert Catesby, a conspirator by association
  Thomas Wintour - a conspirator
  Robert Wintour - another conspirator, brother of Thomas Wintour
  John Wright - a conspirator
  Christopher Wright - another conspirator, brother of John Wright
  Robert Keyes - a conspirator
  John Grant - another conspirator
  Ambrose Rookwood - a conspirator, a stereotypical gay man
  Everard Digby - another conspirator, a stereotypical gay man
  MP 1 - a Member of Parliament
  MP 2 - another Member of Parliament
  Chief Minister - a caricature of the current (or previous) UK Prime Minister
  Princes Henry and Charles - two optional characters, the sons of King James, non-speaking
  Chorus of Catholics, Protestants, Soldiers, Parliamentarians, Gloaters & 21st Century Children


  1) Remember, Remember Chorus
  2) Here Today And Gone Tomorrow Guy Fawkes and Chorus
  3) Our Queen, Our King Chorus
  4) Oh, What Fun It Is To Be King King James and Chorus
  5) The Gunpowder Plot Catesby, Bates, Percy and Chorus
  6) Hung Up On Evil Cecil and Chorus
  7) Here I Stand At The Crossroads Tresham and Chorus (or Bates)
  8) Burn! Conspirators
~~ Interval ~~  
  9) Livin' In A Dream Conspirators, Cecil and Tresham
10) Burn! (Reprise) Catesby, Percy, Fawkes, Bates and Chorus
11) Oh, What Fun It Is To Be King KIng James
12) So Now's The Time Fawkes, Cecil and Chorus
13) Good Afternoon! Torturers, Cecil and Chorus
14) Here Today And Gone Tomorrow (Reprise) Fawkes and Company

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