Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
Kay Mellor’s ground-breaking drama was a huge success when it first hit TV screens back in 1995. 25 years on the action has been relocated from screen to stage while still taking its inspiration from the lives and experiences of the Northern sex workers who in order to make ends meet work ‘the lane’.
The story focuses on Gina (Sacha Parkinson), a young mother who gets drawn into the world of sex work in order to provide for her daughter and pay off ruthless loan shark Mr Moore (Joe Mallalieu). Things take a tragic turn one evening while working the lane and its down to her fellow workers to deal with the fallout while continuing to face multiple battles of their own.
Fans of the TV series will be pleased to know that this newly developed play doesn’t sway too much from the gritty style of the much-loved TV series with Mellor’s clever wit even in the darkest of moments shining through. Her writing allows the audience glimpses of the humanity and heart of her characters while offering a fascinating insight into their working world and the dangers contained within.
Through Mellor’s multi-layered script the individual stories of the main four female leads intertwine to create a dramatic piece which draws you in and keeps you guessing. Each character feels authentic and is honestly delivered by a strong cast made up primarily of Laurie Brett (Anita), Gaynor Faye (Rose), Sacha Parkinson (Gina) and Emma Osman (Carol) each giving a convincing and real performance.
The ladies are strongly supported by several male characters with Kieron Richardson, Shayne Ward, Andrew Dunn, Steve Garti, Joe Mallalieu and Mark Sheals all showing a high level of skill if some are a little underused. Special mention must also go to Olwen May as Gina’s mother Joyce, her heartfelt emotion feels painfully raw and is delivered with real conviction.
While Mellor’s blend of tragedy and dark humour is delivered with sensitivity there are occasions when it feels like the piece would have benefitted from holding the dramatic tension for longer rather than so often going for the laugh or quickly changing scene; at times the audience laugh at situations which would have held more impact if characters were allowed more time to breathe. While the quick pace keeps the tension high it does result in a lack of opportunity to connect with the characters on a more emotional level.
This re-invention of Band of Gold will entertain both fans of the original TV series and those coming to it for the first time. It also feels timely as we live through continued austerity with many women struggle to provide for their families and the sad reality that there are more sex workers now than when the original stories were penned. An engaging piece of theatre delivered by a solid cast.
Band of Gold is on at the Lowry until Saturday 25th January tickets available here.