Kay Mellor on the theatre version of Band of Gold
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Leeds’ Kay Mellor and daughter Gaynor Faye bring the stage production of iconic show, Band of Gold, to Leeds Grand Theatre this month.
Bringing Band Of Gold to the stage for the first time, Leeds writer-director Kay Mellor promises fans are in for a treat. 'They'll get all the joy and suspense they had from the television version,' says the creator of one of the most-watched shows in British TV history. 'But it's live theatre so it has that excitement to it.'
Revising the plot of the first series but adding a few twists, she adds: "It's funny and it's sad and audiences are going to be told a big story, not over six weeks ,but two hours with a beginning, middle and an end."
Set in the early 90s, the stage version is bringing back the iconic characters and moments that made Band Of Gold such a sensation when it premiered on ITV. But the killer of young mother turned sex worker Gina won't be the same, with Mellor teasing: 'I think people will be more satisfied than they were with the TV revelation.'
Kay, a critically acclaimed writer, was originally inspired to write the hard-hitting drama when, on the way to a party, she and her husband drove through Lumb Lane in Bradford - a notorious hangout for sex workers - and a young woman approached their car. 'It was like someone had hit me in the solar plexus,' Kay recalls. 'She was so young - 14 or 15 - and my daughters weren't much older than that.'
Haunted by the encounter, Kay left the party early to track down the girl but was told by another sex worker that the teenager had 'pimp problems'. Mellor sighs. 'I never saw her again, but I started thinking "What is it that drives a woman onto the Lane to sell her body?'"
The show wasn't just a gripping crime drama, it was a phenomenon - with more than 15 million viewers tuning in each week, fans holding Band Of Gold parties where they'd catch the latest episode over wine and pizza and bookies taking bets on the identity of Gina's killer before the big reveal.
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Kay went on to become one of the UK's most successful and revered dramatists, penning Playing The Field, The Syndicate and Girlfriends for television and turning her much-loved show Fat Friends into a hugely successful 2017 stage musical, which she also directed.
Band Of Gold remains a firm favourite. She smiles about people in the street still yelling 'What's happened to Carol?' in reference to Cathy Tyson's feisty prostitute who takes Gina under her wing. 'And I get in taxis and the driver goes 'I love that Band Of Gold, why don't you write some more of it?'"
Twenty-two years on from the series finale and it has happened - and with a brand-new cast. Having loved adapting Fat Friends for the stage, she adds: 'There's nothing like sitting in an auditorium listening to your play and hearing people laughing and applauding. It's absolutely magical. It's like a drug.'
She decided to set the show in its original time period because, she says, things have become harder with austerity.
'People can't get to the end of the week. There are more sex workers - people selling their bodies to feed their kids or make ends meet. It's more relevant today than ever before.'
Kay's daughter Gaynor Faye, plays Rose and agrees the revival couldn't be more timely.
'It's more than two decades on and we're in a worse position,' she says. 'People are struggling. Rose is like the mother hen. She's very territorial, but she's a good friend and the kind of person everyone would want to have their back because she's tough.'
Band of Gold is at Leeds Grand Theatre until December 14th, www.leedsgrandtheatre.com.