Gaynor Faye stars in the stage version of Kay Mellor's TV hit Band of Gold at Mayflower Theatre BIG INTERVIEW
When Band of Gold was first broadcast on ITV in 1995 it was a groundbreaking hit, pulling in 15m viewers a week.
The show focused on a group of sex-workers living and working in Bradford’s red light district, the semi-fictionalised ‘lane’. With a cast including Geraldine James, Cathy Tyson and a star-making turn for Samantha Morton, it was also writer Kay Mellor’s first major prime-time smash.
Twenty-five years on it has been adapted for the stage, and following a debut run at Leeds Grand Theatre late last year, the same cast are now out on a UK tour.
Gaynor Faye, who starred as Judy Mallett in Coronation Street in the ’90s and more recently finished an eight-year stint in Emmerdale as Megan Macey, takes the role of Rose, originally played by Geraldine James.
When The Guide spoke with Gaynor, she was revelling in the reception for the play, and her first stage role in a while.
‘It went amazingly well, the public loved it. Obviously we thought we had something amazing, but you never know until that first night when you get out there. But that’s the beauty of theatre, you know instantly whether you’ve got a success or not!
‘We got laughs in places where we had no idea there was a laugh, and people crying, and pin-drop silences. Then at the end everyone stood up – and it was that moment of: “Oh my goodness!”
‘Working in television I’m not used to that kind of instant reaction, but just to know people loved it was fantastic – it was music to everyone’s ears.’
And she describes Leeds, rather than say, London, as ‘the perfect place’ for the show to premiere.
‘It’s near where it’s based, and people love Kay’s work, and I’m synonymous with Leeds and the north as well, so there’s that warmth there already and people rooting for it, but I do think that people come to the theatre wanting to enjoy it. People don’t pay theatre prices and come along thinking: “Right, I’m going to really hate this”. You want to have a good night, and you certainly do with this, it’s got the humour, it’s got the whodunnit, it’s got the grittiness, it’s got the romance angle, there’s the camaraderie, and there’s music throughout it as well.’
But it’s not a musical, like the last adaptation another of Kay’s TV hits, Fat Friends.
‘It’s definitely a play, but it does have some karaoke songs in it, sung very well by Laurie Brett.’
The show is basically the first TV series (it ran for three) condensed into two hours – and for those who remember the original there will still be some surprises.
‘It’s fantastic because you really invest in it – the whodunnit element comes into its own, and everyone’s a suspect at some point. But there’s some extras thrown in – and the killer’s been changed! So you can’t sit there thinking: “I know who did it”.’
And as Gaynor points out, the play doesn't need any prior knowledge of the TV show to be enjoyed.
‘We’ve had people watch it who’d never seen or heard of Band of Gold before, a different generation, and they loved it too, because it still stands up today.
‘Nothing’s changed from when it first came out. We’re still in the same state, in fact we’re in a worse state – there’s more people on the streets, and more people on the breadline so it stands up as a modern play now.’
Gaynor's character Rose is an older sex worker who runs the lane.
She recalls her mother – she’s Kay’s daughter – spending years researching and developing the show.
‘I love doing research for plays and parts that I’m doing, but I know that the research was done so thoroughly at the time, and obviously living through it now, I’ve done a lot of work with food banks, I didn’t feel like I needed to go into that world.
‘We were going to go down to Bradford, but I see it everywhere now, it’s not just certain areas, sadly. It’s rife everywhere. The character was already extremely well researched when my mum wrote it, and I knew it from when she wrote it and what she did – I trusted it.’
She also recalls the struggles Kay had in getting the show to the screen.
‘I remember being there, when she was trying to get it on, it took about eight years. People were scared of putting female streetwalkers on the screen in leading roles, and she was going: “No, that’s the whole point!” These are real people, they do these jobs because they have to do it – they have to put food on the table, and look out for their families – it’s the only way they can do it, it’s not because they want to do it.
‘She fought for such a long time to get it on, and then when she did, it was such a huge hit and everybody was thirsty for this kind of TV show, it launched so many others after it.
‘It put prostitutes, as they were called at the time, at the centre of the piece, they were the heroes, it delved into their lives and their relationships in a way which hadn’t been done before.’
Gaynor is joined by a stellar case for the tour, including Laurie Brett, (EastEnders, Waterloo Road, Les Miserablés), Kieron Richardson, (Hollyoaks, Heatbeat), Shayne Ward, (Coronation Street, Rock Of Ages, X Factor Winner), Sacha Parkinson (Mr Selfridge, The Mill) and Andrew Dunn (Dinnerladies, The Full Monty).
‘We’re having really good fun. There’s so many different types of actors in it – there’s comedians, there’s straight actors, actors who haven’t been on stage before but are completely committed to it, and then we’ve got Shayne Ward, who’s a real joker – he’s very funny. He’s always up to something.
‘Emma Osman, who plays Carol – Cathy Tyson’s part – she’s a newcomer from Leeds, and she’s fantastic.’
Band of Gold is at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from February 4-8. Tickets £20.50-39.50. Go to mayflower.org.uk.
Obviously I’ve got children and I found myself being away a lot, I wanted to be based back in Leeds, or at least back in the north, so I wanted to be back there for my kids - early teenage life is difficult.
And it was great, Emmerdale had a part for me, and they really wanted to me in it, and I loved it. It was at its peak - winning loads of awards, and the character was so brilliant. Plus I got to sleep in my own bed and work, which is unheard of in our business! It was a great time, but I went in ot this business to play different characters, so when this opportunity came up to play Rose, which was played by Geraldine James in the TV show, I was like, yes, let me have a go at that.
I said I wanted to want and do the show, and unfortunately I couldn’t do both, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play Rose as she’s such a great character and nothing like I’ve played before - and that’s what actors want - the chance to play great roles. If I hadn’t done this, I would have been kicking myself.
We finish back end of March, and then we’ll see what happens. I'm looking into other things and keeping my options open. But for now I want to enjoy this, as an actor, you’re always looking for the next thing, and I want to enjoy being in this show! I think it’s really important to enjoy what you’re doing at this moment, so I’m going to put my all into this and hopefully something will come up.