Leeds Grand Theatre – until 14 December 2019
It’s December, Panto season is upon us, so what better way to get into the festive spirit than a bit of gritty northern realism.
Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold, based on the TV series of the same name also penned by Mellor is very gritty, very northern but also very witty. I’ve not seen the TV series – something I will try and remedy now – but I was warned about pink marigolds (more of them later!). Mellor is a fabulous writer and gives life and depth to her characters. This is actually quite an empowering production.
Anita (Laurie Brett) is the Mother figure of the girls. Living in a flat paid for by her married lover George (Mark Sheals), she feels she’s not a prostitute. However, she allows the girls to use her flat for their clients and she stays close by to make sure the girls are always safe. Anita loves to belt out on the karaoke giving us a chance to hear Bretts amazing vocals. George visits every Tuesday and Thursday and wants Anita to use her contacts to get him a cleaning contract from Councillor Barraclough (Andrew Dunn).
Rose (Gaynor Faye) runs “The Lanes” where the girls tout for cars, always making sure if they go off in a punters car someone must know they are going and they’ve come back. Safety is paramount for these women.
Gina (Sascha Parkinson) has thrown out her abusive husband, Steve (Kieron Richardson), but finds herself in debt to a loan shark named Mr. Moore (Joe Mallalieu). She is starting up a round selling Avon while her mum Joyce (Olwen May) looks after her young daughter Sarah. Its inferred that Joyce is in an abusive marriage with second husband Bob, who is controlling and doesn’t like her looking after Sarah. Whilst out selling Avon, Gina meets Carol (Emma Osman), an OCD clean freak prostitute who keeps her home pristine because she doesn’t want her young daughter Emma to catch anything. With Mr Moore demanding interest on the loan and charging penalties for early payment, Gina realises that she will never earn enough from selling Avon and, with Rose’s permission starts to work “The Lanes”. Whilst all the time her mum believes she is building up her Avon round.
Inspector Newall (Shayne Ward) is an ex-vice now serious crime officer. He was a client of Carol before he moved departments. Carol also has a regular customer, Poultry factory owner Curly (Steve Garti) who likes her to wear stockings and heels and walk up and down in front of him whilst he “pleasures himself” in pink marigolds (A scene which was fascinatingly hilarious and horrendous in equal measure – such is the brilliance of Mellors writing). He is generous and harmless in that she just needs to walk and he literally “chokes the chicken”
With a who-dun-nit to solve Newall as his work cut out to solve the case with the women closing ranks against him.
Band of Gold is an amazing production, just over 2 hours of intense story line and humour. Mellors writing along with Janet Birds design, Yvonne Milnes costumes and Jason Taylors lighting places you back in the early 90’s in Bradford. Seeing how life was for girls and women who had bills to pay and sold their bodies as a last resort, they were strong and matter of fact about their lives but there was a camaraderie and safety was a priority for all. It’s certainly a show that makes you think.
Band of Gold is in Leeds until 14 December 2019 and on tour around the UK in 2020 for details see https://bandofgoldplay.com/