Kay Mellor, a heroine of the north, has recently taken the bold leap from the screen to the stage with ‘Band of Gold’, a migration met with bubbling anticipation and subsequent celebratory reviews.
Tracing the scathing tests of life on the lane, Mellor’s tale of prostitution, hardship and austerity appear to uncover the underbelly of our society still scarcely spoken about today. Unnervingly relevant, the play manages to merge the past and present injustices of life on the street corner, while remaining sensitive at all times. This play is about the people. The women. The girls. There are no grotesque or explicit scenes for pure shock value, Mellor doesn’t need this, indeed the script is what lifts this play. When we asked Steve Grati who plays Curly (or Chicken Man) in the production about the transition into present day, he posited that indeed there is little difference:
‘People are still skint, that makes people make decisions, austerity is how it is. People need to put food on the table and have to come up with ideas how to do it. Sometimes, people will have to put their lives in danger to do it. It’s a subject that needs to be looked at people need to shine light on it.’
In a few words, we could see this as a play about the nasty face of capitalism which leaves women £5 short of rent and then in debt to vicious loan sharks. However, Mellor doesn’t push this to the foreground, it is an undercurrent bobbing along with the tide as the women swim against the current.
Of course, Mellor is instrumental as the driving force behind the piece, in the hands of someone less meticulous and skilful it could have become somewhat disjointed, or as Entertainment Focus put it, plot driven. When we asked Grati about Kay’s involvement he stated ‘she’s been with us all the way, all the way back about two years when workshops started.’ But Mellor isn’t alone in the success of Band of Gold. Condensing the lives of four women from three series into a piece of 90-minute theatre had the potential to become one dimensional or forced. However, with effusive performances from all, each female, northern life weaved through with equal prominence.
You have the fragile Gina (Sacha Parkinson) who’s new to the business and the audience find the first half to be almost entirely indebted to her. The second of the bunch is young mother (Emma Osman) who’s strength of character is paired with interesting nuances. In attempts to separate her daughter from her work and life, she bleaches the toilet numerous times a day and has a tickling obsession with cleaning the sofa (a beautiful fuchsia motif which runs through the play). Gaynor Faye who plays Rose embodies the typical hard and rough street worker, yet a slightly rushed twist at the end reveals a softer inside. And finally, perhaps the most complex character of the bunch is Anita, played by Laurie Brett, whom opens the show in a dazzling gown singing karaoke. Anita seems ironically above the world of the Lane exuding an initially glamourous exterior which is torn away hair by hair.
Make no mistake, Mellor’s play, as indeed the series were, is about the stories of women in the North. The women lead the way. It’s a brilliant production which seems unmasks the extent of our unchanging society unnervingly and uncannily.
Band of Gold is in Leeds until the December 14th at The Grand Theatre and Opera House. Get tickets at leedsgrandtheatre.com
Photo Credit: Theatre Board.