Motherhood, poverty and Northern grit: A Band of Gold at Leeds Grand Theatre – Review

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As a mother there’s not much you wouldn’t do to protect your child and provide for them, which is why Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold on stage is a must-see for all of us who have experienced poverty, parenting and how unfortunate circumstances can lead you into the world of the unknown. 

I’d never watched the popular 90s TV crime series (I’m one of the few who didn’t as 15 million viewers tuned in each week to watch Band of Gold on ITV), but thankfully I went to review the stage version at Leeds Grand Theatre this week.

Without knowing much about the storyline, I was instantly catapulted into a gritty but familiar world of impoverished families in Yorkshire. 

We meet Gina, a recently separated single mother (who had left her abusive husband), struggling to make ends meet for her and her child. As well as paying off any debts that her husband left her with. 

She starts her own Avon network marketing business but barely manages to cover start-up costs. It’s through this she meets Anita, Rose and Carol who work on the Lane as sex workers. 

Gina is attracted into sex work as a way to pay off her rent debts. She’s met with some reluctance from the other workers but she is determined to earn money for her and her daughter rather than return to her abusive husband. Whilst Gina appears timid and gentle, we see a fierce determination within her and a strength to leave the abuse cycle that she could have become trapped in. 

Whilst Anita, Rose and Carol who have worked in the industry for a long time at first appear brash and tough, they too show their strength and softer side when it comes to friendships and their roles as mothering characters. Whilst there’s conflict between them all, there’s also camaraderie and care. 

 These three iconic female roles from the TV series, are played on stage by Gaynor Faye (Emmerdale, Playing the Field), Laurie Brett (EastEnders, Waterloo Road) and Leeds-born actress Emma Osman. They are joined by award-winning TV stars Shayne Ward (Coronation Street, X Factor winner), Kieron Richardson (Hollyoaks, Heartbeat), Sacha Parkinson (Mr. Selfridge, The Mill) and Andrew Dunn (Dinnerladies, Coronation Street).

It was good to see sex workers playing a lead role and showing their human side and stories rather than how sex workers can typically be depicted. 

There’s part of all of them that I could identify with which made me feel like I there on the dark streets of Bradford, where the stage version is based with a fitting simple and stark set. 

For me it showed the strength of women and mothers to overcome adversity and how often we are more similar than we think, especially when it comes to survival despite poverty, abuse and circumstances. 

The women show such strength despite putting their physical and mental health at risk. They  have a real northern grit, sense of humour but also a vulnerability about them.  

I was drawn into the world of a Band of Gold on stage at Leeds Grand Theatre and I was gripped from start to finish, which is a testament to the cast and writer Kay Mellor. 

This world premiere stage production of her multi-award winning TV series Band of Gold is an absolute must-see and there’s not been  a show that has captured my attention, empathy and emotions like this for a while.


The official lowdown

Band of Gold was the groundbreaking crime drama that captivated over 15 million viewers each week when it aired on ITV and revolved around a group of women – Carol, Rose, Anita and Gina. At times heartbreaking and humorous, Band of Gold tells the story of how a young mother is drawn into the notorious red-light district. With a killer on the loose it’s a battle to survive!

Kay Mellor OBE is a Leeds born writer, director and actress best known for her work on several successful and ground-breaking drama series, including Fat Friends, Band of Gold, The Syndicate and In The Club. She is also well known for her stage version of A Passionate Woman, which played in the West End and is still touring both nationally and internationally, and Fat Friends The Musical which premiered at Leeds Grand Theatrein November 2017. Kay most recently wrote and created Love, Lies & Records (BBC One, 2017), and wrote and directedGirlfriends (ITV,2018). Kay was also the exec-producer for Overshadowed (BBC Three).

DISCLAIMER: We received press tickets for the purpose of this review.

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