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Review – Band of Gold  – Floral Pavilion New Brighton

Review by Nigel Smith

WHEN Kay Mellor originally wrote Band of Gold for television in the mid 1990s it was striking stuff. A group of sex workers propelled into the leading roles of a Sunday night TV drama.

25 years on some of the taboos are diluted by time and we are more familiar with the ideas that Mellor has now rewritten for two hours on stage. Many of the original characters are reincarnated, revolving around Anita, Rose and Carol. Drawing together so many people into a new single, storyline results in some of the characterisations being a little sketchy, but this central trio are portrayed roundly and with great conviction by Laurie Brett, Gaynor Faye and Emma Osman.

Enter Gina, played by Sacha Parkinson. She’s a young mother whose abusive partner Steve (Kieron Richardson) drives her to seek a quick money making venture. It takes some persuading, but she is soon working under Anita’s tutelage with some success, much to the chagrin of Rose and Carol. All seems to be going reasonably well when things begin to spiral out of control to tragic consequences.

No spoilers here, but suffice to say that a roll-call of reprobates from the original series re-emerge to throw a collection of spanners in the works and, in true crime drama fashion, any one of them could be the one who dunnit. Although the pacing could at times do with a little more forward momentum, the staging achieves some rapid scene changes and creates a satisfyingly dark backdrop for the action.

The dramaturgical process of bringing the work to stage is a little formulaic, and the storytelling not entirely seamless, but the response of the audience shows that it hits all the right notes with its emotional intentions. There is obvious empathy with the four women at the heart of the story, and the rest of the characters, whilst thinly fleshed out, certainly fulfil their dramatic purposes. Richardson definitely puts some ‘welly’ into his hard-kicking portrayal of Steve (they must get through quite a bit of furniture during the tour) whilst Shayne Ward’s Inspector Newall brings obvious star value to the show.

Live on stage after all these years, Band of Gold may not be as much of a shocker as it was in the late 20th century, but it still has the power to captivate an audience. This production is at the Floral Pavilion until 29th February before continuing its tour in Cheltenham, Milton Keynes and Bath.

Star Rating: 3.5

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