Touring – reviewed at Leeds Grand Theatre
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 and a murdered prostitute.
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 Brett’s 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). He pays Anita £100 for her to sort it, Anita pays Rose (Gaynor Faye) £50 to find a girl to sleep with Barraclough and then Rose pays the girl £20 for her services. Rose 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.
It’s 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” and ends up sleeping with Barraclough. Whilst all the time her mum believes she is building up her Avon round.
After Gina is murdered the women band together and deny she was a prostitute, if the police believe she was an Avon rep they will be more likely to solve the case and make the place safe again, if they believe she was a prostitute then the crime is more likely to become a statistic.
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. Joyce is horrified to find her daughter branded a prostitute and visits the girls local pub to try and find out the truth, desperately wanting to believe her daughter was an Avon rep.
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/
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